Graham: Looking at the best movies of the year, so far
Let’s turn our attention to the movies, because sometimes you have to take a break from talking about Kanye West
We’re one-third of the way through the year, and at the movies, there’s already been plenty to write home about.
We’ve seen “Black Panther” climb to unimagined heights to become the third-highest domestic moneymaker of all-time. We’ve tip-toed into “A Quiet Place” and made sure not to rustle our bags of popcorn. And, hallelujah, we were finally freed from the “Fifty Shades” franchise.
Packed with viewing suggestions for movies you probably missed, here’s a recap of the first four months of the year:
Best blockbuster: “Black Panther.” The titular hero is only part of the fun of this extravaganza, which goes deep on side characters and gives Black Panther a worthy adversary in Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. Wakanda forever, indeed.
Best family film: “Paddington 2.” The first “Paddington,” in 2014, was adorable, but this follow-up was near-perfect, with the marmalade-scarfing cub out to enact prison reform, of all things. A pure delight, with a daffy Hugh Grant in scene-stealing mode as a washed-up thespian.
Most heartbreaking story: “Lean on Pete.” It’s a movie about a boy and his horse, so you know to bring your Kleenex, but in a breakthrough performance, Charlie Plummer makes the story about nothing less than the resolve of the human spirit. A stunner.
Best comedy: “The Death of Stalin.” A sharp, unexpectedly timely political satire, “The Death of Stalin” plays out like “Veep” in the Soviet Union of the ’50s. In a sterling cast, Simon Russell Beale stands out above his comrades.
Best theater experience: “A Quiet Place.” You never realize how much noise you (or your neighbors) make in a movie theater until you’re all sitting together there in dead silence. This killer horror movie made you afraid to reach for your trusty bag of M&Ms out of fear of being shushed by those around you.
Best weekend action movie: “Den of Thieves.” This heist thriller is much smarter than expected, with great turns from a rugged Gerard Butler and a scheming O’Shea Jackson Jr. It’s the kind of movie that will pop up on cable on a Saturday and eat up your whole afternoon.
Best performance by a Detroit Piston: Blake Griffin, “The Female Brain.” Dude’s got chops. Who knew? Griffin plays a professional basketball player — no stretch there — in this throwaway comedy, but he displays impressive comedic timing and possesses a strong screen presence. If basketball doesn’t wind up working out for him, he’s got a future in movies.
Craziest import: “Detective Chinatown 2.” This madcap comedy — the sequel to “Detective Chinatown,” a massive hit in China — is a bonkers ride through New York City with enough slapstick yuks to make even the Three Stooges blush.
Best Jon Hamm performance: “Beirut.” After “Mad Men,” Jon Hamm hasn’t had the easiest transition to movie roles, but this tense thriller — in which he plays an ex-U.S. diplomat forced to return to Beirut — makes a simmering case for Hamm’s big screen stardom.
Film that begs for repeat viewings: “Annihilation.” This moody sci-fi thriller about soldiers exploring a strange phenomenon is tough to decode in just one sitting, and if there’s a 2018 film that will be pored over by academics, nerds and nerdy academics for years to come, it’s this one.
Best surprise: “Game Night.” It looks like a run-of-the-mill comedy, and in many ways it is, but it’s the kind of smart, fun adult comedy that studios rarely make anymore. As the game-loving couple at the film’s center who end up over their heads during one wild night, Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are delightful together.
Coldest film about Russia: “Loveless.” “Red Sparrow,” which is as ice cold as the Russian tundra, nearly had this one licked. But “Loveless,” in which a search for a missing child acts as a stand in for the breakdown of Russian society, will chill you to the bone.
Best sci-fi mind bender: “The Endless.” Two brothers return to the “UFO death cult” they escaped years earlier in this imaginative thriller written, directed, edited, produced, shot by, starring and probably catered by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead.
Best soundtrack: “The Strangers: Prey at Night.” Cheese rock maestro Jim Steinman shines brightly in this stylish horror sequel, in which teens are stalked to the sweet sounds of Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” and Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
Darkest teen film: “Thoroughbreds.” Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke team up in this nasty little dark comedy in which two teens plot the murder of one of their stepfathers. Even “Heathers” wasn’t this joyously nihilistic.
Most license clearances: “Ready Player One.” Steven Spielberg has so many callbacks to other characters and franchises in this wild action adventure that fanboys will be pointing them out for years to come.
Scariest trip: “You Were Never Really Here.” Joaquin Phoenix is a contract killer in this disturbing head trip that’s like taking a hammer to the skull.
Most dumb fun: “Rampage.” The original “Rampage” video game had buttons for Kick, Punch and Jump, and there’s not much more than that to this colorful romp in which The Rock proves yet again that he’s well on his way to world domination.