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Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2018 — Part Four!

We’ve reached the end of my list of my Favorite Movies of 2018!  Click here for part one of my list, and click here for part two, and click here for part three.

5. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? —  Like so many of my generation, I grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  The moral and life lessons of Fred Rogers’ television program for children have stayed with me, and are deeply woven into my being.  I knew this, but watching Morgan Neville’s incredible documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I was struck anew by the lessons that Mr. Rogers taught me and so many other kids like me.  The film is a heartwarming (and also, at times, sad) look back at Mr. Rogers’ life and his life’s work: using the medium of television to educate children.  The film allows us to hear from Fred Rogers himself, via archival footage (such as clips from his famous testimony before Congress in 1969) and generous helpings of scenes from the show.  Even better, the film brings together many of the men and women who knew and worked with Mr. Rogers, and they each have fascinating and insightful stories to tell.  Watching the film, I felt a profound sense that something important had been lost from our culture with the passing of Fred Rogers and his children’s television program.  Our world needs more teachers and leaders out there focusing on the values of kindness, of understanding, and of love.  (Click here for my full review.)

4. Mission: Impossible — Fallout I am sort of bowled over at how great this FIFTH Mission: Impossible movie is!  Writer-Director Christopher McQuarrie (returning to helm his second-in-a-row Mission film, the first time the same director returned for the next Mission film in the series) has crafted a triumph of fun pop action-adventure filmmaking.  It’s a delight from start to finish, filled with terrific characters, a tightly-woven plot (that actually, for the most part at least, makes sense), and some of the most outrageously bonkers action sequences I have ever seen.  Tom Cruise is tremendous as always, and I love how well this film allowed the IMF team (Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin) to play together.  I was delighted that they brought back Michelle Monaghan, drawing to a close story-threads that were begun back in M:I-III.  Henry Cavill’s brute-force CIA operative was a fantastic foil for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt.  But this film is all about the astounding action sequences: the halo-jump sequence over Paris; the brutal fist-fight in a bathroom; the prison-van breakout sequence; the motorcycle-and-car chase across Paris; and, of course, the gonzo helicopter chase in the film’s climax (in … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Black Panther

I know, intellectually, that Marvel Studios’ incredible streak of great movies is going to end sometime.  It has to.  No win streak can continue indefinitely.  But it didn’t end this past weekend, as Marvel Studios released Black Panther, a fantastic addition to their ever-expanding Cinematic Universe.  Black Panther is, incredibly, the eighteenth film in this interconnected movie universe.  It still boggles my mind that there exists an eighteen-movies-and-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And what’s even more impressive is just how terrific all of these films have been.  There isn’t a true stinker in the bunch.  (The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2 are, I think, the two least successful films, and even both of those have a lot to enjoy in them.)  The last several films in particular have been fantastic, and Black Panther continues that streak of excellence.

Picking up after the death of his father King T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther opens with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning home to Wakanda to claim his position as king.  Wakanda is a technological paradise, though they use their technology to hide that fact from the rest of the world.  When the vicious thief and weapons merchant Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who killed the parents of T’Challa’s close friend W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), resurfaces, T’Challa leads a team consisting of Okoye (Danai Gurira), the leader of the fierce female Wakandan fighting force the Dora Milaje, and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), T’Challa’s former flame who believes that Wakanda must engage with the outside world, to capture Klaue.  That mission goes awry when they discover that Klaue is in league with a young man named Eric (Michael B. Jordan), a black-ops soldier who calls himself Killmonger, and who has a secret connection to the Wakandan royal family.  Killmonger challenges T’Challa for the throne of Wakanda, and the once-peaceful nation threatens to split into civil war.

Black Panther is fantastic.  It fits squarely into the Marvel Cinematic Universe while also standing completely on its own and having its own unique style.  The film references Captain America: Civil War, but you absolutely don’t have to have seen that film to enjoy this one.  And while many fans thought that the one not-yet-seen Infinity Stone (which will surely come into play in this summer’s Avengers: Infinity War) would appear in this film, I was happy that didn’t happen.  Black Panther didn’t need that additional baggage — it’s better for this film to be able to tell its own, complete story.  (If that final Infinity Stone is indeed hidden in Wakanda, as many fans guess, I am glad they held that reveal for Infinity War.)

Director Ryan Coogler (Creed) has crafted a magnificent film, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Creed

I don’t have any attachment to the Rocky series.  In fact, the only Rocky film I have ever seen is the very first one, the 1976 original.  I loved it, but I never had any burning desire to continue on to watch all the sequels.  When I first read about Creed, I wasn’t interested.  But I’ve really enjoyed the work of Michael B. Jordan (cast here in the lead role as Adonis Johnson Creed), and over the past month I have seen review after review heaping incredible amounts of praise on the film.  And I must admit that the film’s trailers made it look great, something of interest to a non-Rocky-fan like me.  I finally decided that I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about.  I was not disappointed, and that’s putting it mildly.  Creed is phenomenal, a rich and resonant film that actually got me quite choked up in a few places.  Holy shit, I can’t believe the seventh film in this boxing franchise made me cry!!

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Michael B. Jordan, as I’ve already noted, plays Adonis.  When we meet him, Adonis is using the last name of Johnson, but we quickly learn that he’s the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers in the first several Rocky films).  Adonis has a good life.  He has a loving mother, a nice house and a good job.  But in his heart he wants to be a boxer like his father, even though in most other ways he tries to deny everything about his father, most particularly his famous last name.  Adonis moves to Philadelphia to track down his father’s rival and friend, Rocky, begging Rocky to coach him.  Rocky has tried to put his life in boxing behind him, living a quiet life running a small restaurant (named after Adrian).  Rocky initially refuses, but Adonis persists, and eventually Rocky begins to warm up to him, agreeing to help.

The over-all plot of this film is familiar, but it works because that familiar structure is used to tell a surprisingly emotional story about the relationship forged between these two men, Adonis and Rocky, and the powerful demons they each still carry with them.

Sylvester Stallone is magnificent in the film.  I can’t believe how good he is.  Writer/director Ryan Coogler (the script was co-written by Aaron Covington) has crafted a perfect role for Mr. Stallone, putting Rocky into the Mickey role as Creed’s wizened, elder-statesman trainer.  It’s a brilliant idea, and Mr. Stallone absolutely kills it.  He plays Rocky with such sadness and loneliness that he makes it impossible for the audience not to root for the big galoot.

After seeing Star Wars: The [continued]