Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Eight 2018 Retro-Recommended Titles

After recovering from the onslaught of flicks that unspooled at the recent Dances With Films Festival 2018, this movie geek needed a little break.  (New Indie titles will be popping up soon!) But in taking a little film reflection time and seeing that I had only two films with five-stars in 2018 (that would be Thoroughbreds and Marrowbone people!) I decided to take a step back and check out some of the possible gems I missed along the way.  So below are eight films out already that were recommendations from close critics I trust to reviewers on this very site in an attempt to try and flesh out my low five-star flick list.  (Only scored one more – but it’s still something!)  So for all those willing to look back with me here are the Encapsulated Movie Reviews of You Were Never Really Here, Three Identical Strangers, First Reformed, A Quiet Place, Sicario: Day Of The Soldado, Ocean’s 8, Overboard and Life Of The Party below for your ready reference.

(Amazon Studios)

Taking a familiar story scenario of a violent man hired to find a missing kid and infusing her take with rich emotional and psychological elements, Lynn Ramsay’s latest You Were Never Really Here is the film the 2004 remake of Man On Fire should have been.  Having more viscerally in common with the original underrated 1987 Scott Glenn version, Ramsay boldly gives equal time to both the films’ brutal carnage (a hammer is a weapon of choice!) and soulful sins of the past (the lead character is steeped in sadness!) while always keeping the viewer guessing in the story department.  It’s a move that may seem natural for a female filmmaker, but Ramsey has proven time and time again that she’s a helmer comfortable in any and all movie playgrounds.  Needless to say the against type casting of Joaquin Phoenix, who stuns as the deeply wrought and barren lead Joe, is no accident – unlike the title of her film Ramsey continues to shine by being present in every five-star facet of her films.


A well-woven doc dealing with three identical triplets who find each other later in life by accident and soon begin to realize there’s more mystery to their seemingly surface story then they thought. The construction, pacing and suspense factor ala Director Tim Wardle is most assuredly skillful here and makes for a gripping real life ride with some candid conversation from all involved.  Problem is that even as well done as Three Identical Strangers is, it manages by the end to leave some big questions unanswered and playing out with the anticipation of almost a murder-mystery over it’s ninety-six minutes it definitely feels like a gut punch for those waiting for a concrete conclusion.  A clever tale devoid of closure, this is one sensational story that could have been stalled.


Again, another example of a masterful piece of work that leads to a conclusion that falls flat in its delivery.  Taxi Driver scribe and Affliction helmer Paul Schrader touches on everything from global warming to loss of faith in his latest thoughtful opus and steers it with such a skillful suspense hand that it’s almost impossible not to be engrossed.  (Lead man Ethan Hawke makes for a comforting guide – even during the dark bits!)  But unfortunately Schrader’s finale is a 2001: A Space Odyssey ‘up to your own interpretation’ deal and within a film that follows faithfully alongside the learning lead character it feels like an out of nowhere affair.  I’m all for a film being thought provoking and wanting to leave the audience asking questions, but it’s no excuse for the absence of an ending.

(Paramount Pictures)

While John Krasinski’s latest is a extremely well made piece of suspense cinema, calling A Quiet Place a horror film is a little misleading.  There are monsters that inhabit the tense world of quiet or die, but the film shines because of its roots within the thriller genre and mixed with an effective emotional human angle there’s more deep drama than fervent fear.  But hat’s off to Krasinski and company for creating a flick where sound in telling a story becomes obsolete – it’s the writers of needless dialogue that should be scared.

(Sony Pictures Releasing)

A film with equal ups and downs, this second helping of Sicario feels less like a singular story and more like a franchise push.  Meaning the first film was more Emily Blunt’s tale complete with start, middle and end and so her absence here doesn’t feel odd.  But if Day Of The Soldado is more Benicio Del Toro’s story (who is of course super-solid as always!), it’s barely a beginning.  His involvement in a kidnapping plot that sees the dark hitman suddenly changing sides and moral codes isn’t fully fleshed out (why would he bend for a kid – he killed two in the first film no problem!) and leaves gaping holes open for multiple sequels.  I’m all for people who want to keep these movies going, just don’t make it so obvious on-screen guys.

(Warner Bros.)

Having not been a fan of the either of the original boys club versions of this series, I was hopeful that some spirited ladies could breathe cool character life into such a passé property.  On the heist fun factor scale, Ocean’s 8 definitely succeeds.  With some clever twist, turns (love the elder ladies working as fences!) and double crosses, helmer Gary Ross definitely delivers.  On the players scale there are some standouts (Anne Hathaway steals every scene she’s in!), but most are pretty generic cardboard cutouts simply designed to move the film forward.  Certainly not reinventing crime caper cinema, but noteworthy nevertheless, Ocean’s 8 gets away with merely being entertaining and it’s enough.


While the original Overboard, about a rich gal with memory loss who is duped into a fake life and marriage by a poor revenge seeking handyman, was no five-star outing itself, it nevertheless had something key to making its simple sitcom premise work – chemistry.  This unneeded remake takes almost everything from the original film, from the lame dialogue to the obtuse characters situations, and while it makes a few petty updates (the roles of rich and poor have been gender switched!) and embarrassing changes (the “delinquent” sons are now daughters and “good” girls – sexism anyone?!), it trades the dynamic between real-life couple Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn for a non-existent one with worlds apart duo Anna Faris (the only single dog bright spot in this turd fest!) and Eugenio Derbez – this one deserves to sleep with the forgotten film fishes.

(Warner Bros.)

Essentially a reworking of the Back To School scenario with Melissa McCarthy taking on the Rodney Dangerfield role, Life Of The Party is anything but.  Lame jokes that don’t land, comical pacing that makes David Lynch look like a Zucker Brother and an uninspired recycled story that’s an obvious cash grab (Melissa – stop letting husband Ben write and direct you in these damn movies!) – there’s nothing to celebrate here.



I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

1 Response to “Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Eight 2018 Retro-Recommended Titles”

  1. Brian White

    Thanks for covering some of these titles and sharing your opinion.
    You have become my new favorite film reviewer on my most favorite site 🙂
    Tonight I tackle Rampage on 4K!