20. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
The series is moving away from Michael Crichton and towards Lester Dent, but I'm totally okay with that. It's not about What If We Brought Dinosaurs Back? anymore. It's about What Kind of Crazy Stories Can We Tell in This World? I'm enjoying it.
I also enjoyed the changing locations in this one instead of just the island the entire time. From the trailers, I expected the whole movie to be about trying to get off the island before the volcano destroyed it. I was pleased to learn that that's only Act One. Fallen Kingdom keeps things interesting and the final location is especially relevant to my interests.
19. The Grinch
I went in prepared to dislike it, but laughed a lot throughout and came away charmed. My biggest fear was that it would repeat the mistake of the 2000 live-action film by turning the Whos into villains in order to give the Grinch a sympathetic backstory. This one does create empathy for the Grinch, but not at the expense of the heroes of the story: the villagers who actually do understand the value of the holiday they're so enthusiastic about.
18. Ready Player One
Much better than expected. I liked the puzzles and references in the book, but not so much the characters. In fact, the books' characters (especially the main one) made me like the references less just by being so insufferable about getting them all.
The film is packed with references, but doesn't care whether you spot them. It's more interested in telling a fun story with versions of the characters that I like much more than their literary counterparts.
17. Scorched Earth
A cheesy B-movie with a garbage script, but it's Gina Carano as a bounty hunter in a post-apocalyptic Western. Ryan Robbins does his best to steal the movie from Carano, but she's too badass to let him get away with it. He's shockingly charming as the villain though and way too good for this material. I liked him, her, and the movie very much.
16. Mortal Engines
It's based on a YA book, but I couldn't have told you that just from seeing the movie. I enjoy YA movie series like The Maze Runner and Hunger Games, but Mortal Engines feels like an all-ages scifi adventure in the tradition of Star Wars. I enjoyed the variety of characters on different (but connected) journeys. And I especially enjoyed what I thought was going to be a Terminator-like character, but turned out closer to Frankenstein's Creature.
15. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The initial trailer didn't grab me. I've long ago given up Spider-Man comics precisely because of Marvel's desire to create a whole line of spider-powered characters around him. I didn't think I wanted a movie about how crowded Spider-Man's corner of of the Marvel Universe is, even though I like a lot of the concepts behind the characters individually. I mean, I think Miles Morales is an important character; I just didn't want to see a movie with him and Peter Parker both trying to be Spider-Man, if that makes sense. If this was going to be a Morales movie, my preference would be to leave Parker out of it.
But then I saw the poster above with Spider-Ham in it and realized the tone Into the Spider-Verse was going for. And Spider-Man Noir?! Are you kidding me? And Spider-Gwen (one of my favorite Spider-Man supporting characters in a really cool costume). And a little girl with a giant Spider-Bot. All this I could get behind.
And the movie turned out to be a ton of fun with a unique animation style and more comics Easter eggs than I'll ever be able to spot. Almost makes me want to buy a Spider-Gwen comic.
A coming-of-age story disguised as a fantasy film, but with a horror premise. I want to compare it to Teen Wolf, but it's not silly like the Michael J Fox movie nor angst-filled like I imagine the TV series to be. For all its supernatural elements, Wildling is real and true in its presentation of teenagers. It's got Bel Powley (whom I also enjoyed in the Mary Shelley biopic with Elle Fanning), Brad Dourif being all creepy like he does, and a welcome performance by Liv Tyler who's been absent from my movies for too long.
13. Pacific Rim: Uprising
Even though I write a comic with giant monsters and giant robots (or maybe because of that), I was pretty critical of how Pacific Rim did some things. So I was also pretty interested in seeing the story continued by new writers and starring John Boyega.
And I had a really good time with it. I liked it better than the first one. The story and world move forward in a natural way with a couple of charming lead characters, lots of fun set pieces, and some surprising developments. It's a complete story, but also suggests further adventures and I'm more up for sequels now than I was after the first.
I saw it twice last year and noticed some flaws the second time around, but they don't bother me. They're not even really flaws; just some unanswered questions that I would've liked to see explored. Really strong sequel.
12. Ant-Man and the Wasp
More of what I liked about the first one without being a repeat of it. A nice change from the epic seriousness of Infinity War. We've been rewatching our way through the MCU films this year and that ability to change tone from film to film has stood out as a big strength of the series.
11. Game Night
The premise is similar to Bill Murray's The Man Who Knew Too Little, but a) that's a great premise and b) Game Night dresses it up in a story about a group of friends who get together regularly to eat food and play games. These are my people and this is my kind of movie. It's a trifle, but it's a very, very funny trifle.