We reviewed a slew of Blu-Rays, DVDs, books and CDs in 2018. Time to take a look back at the best & worst of them. While we have seen more movies than the Surgeon General recommends, our lists consist strictly of titles which were sent to us for review purposes.
PURR-R-R...THE BEST: We reviewed some good stuff this year, but the following titles were better than taunting a mouse to death:
10. SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (Disney) - If Rogue One is the classic war film in the Star Wars universe, then Solo is its classic western. We may not have needed a Han Solo origin story, but in the tradition of the coolest westerns, the film gives a true anti-hero as its main protagonist, a first for the franchise. I'm still surprised at some of the negativity aimed at this film.
9. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (20th Century Fox) - Sorry to Bother You is full of surprises, never once unfolding like we expect it to. That alone keeps it at-least interesting, whether you end up liking the film or not (I suspect many viewers definitely won't). That it's also wickedly funny, completely original and features a charming, relatable protagonist makes it one of the best films of the year.
8. ZOMBIE (1979) and MANIAC (1980): 3 DISC LIMITED EDITIONS (Blue Underground) - Both of these polarizing cult classics have been released numerous times over the years. While one may question the quality of the films themselves, there's no arguing that Blue Underground has put together two of this year's most comprehensive, fan-friendly Blu-ray releases. Beautifully restored in all their gruesome glory, both are loaded with hours of entertaining bonus features (new and old), along with soundtrack CDs and lenticular covers.
7. THE INSULT (Cohen Media Group) - As The Insult so effectively demonstrates, sometimes it takes just a few words for things to spin wildly out of control. In addition to its thematic relevance, the movie's massively entertaining, with outstanding performances. Karam, in particular, stands out among the great cast, doing a masterful job of making us empathize with someone we initially despise. The Insult is an all-around terrific film, not to be missed.
6. THE SEA HAWK (Warner Archive Collection) - Nearly 80 years later, The Sea Hawk is still loads of fun, belying its age with this terrific Blu-ray transfer. And by carrying-over one of the greatest bonus features ever concocted, we can once again experience it just as filmgoers did in 1940, when "a night at the movies" was just that. As classics go, this one is irresistible.
5. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT (Paramount) - This is the only current franchise that seems to improve with each entry. There's never a moment where we suspect Tom Cruise is going through the motions. I don't know how long he can keep this up, but here's hoping he'll crank out at least one or two more without killing himself. The best action film of the year.
4. DEEP RED (Arrow Video) - Revisiting Deep Red for the first time in 30 years, I've come to the realization that Suspiria may not be Dario Argento's best film after all, and this new Blu-ray from Arrow presents this giallo classic the way it should be seen, in glorious widescreen with a 4K restoration and the original Italian audio track. The masterful murder sequences achieve a level of artistry - and savage beauty - Argento only hinted at in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.
3. BOUND (Olive Films) - Bound is an exceptional directorial debut and arguably the Wachowskis' second-best film. Bereft of the bells and whistles they'd later depend on, it tells a compelling story with little more than a smart screenplay, a bit of dazzling camerawork and a perfect cast. This disc, however, has a lot of bells and whistles, making it another great Olive Signature release.
2. THE DAY OF THE JACKAL (Arrow Video) - A "perfect" film is one that is technically, conceptually & creatively flawless. No throwaway scenes, redundant characters or questionable casting decisions. The direction, performances, pacing, editing, writing, cinematography and score are all spot-on. The i's are all dotted; the t's are all crossed. By that reckoning, I can't think of a single aspect of The Day of the Jackal that doesn't meet the criteria. How come it took this long for a proper Blu-ray release?
1. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (Olive Films) - One of the coolest things about the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers is that it's conceptually timeless. Social commentary and themes notwithstanding, the original still holds up as a smart slice of provocative sci-fi horror, certainly belying its minuscule budget and drive-in fodder title. It's been released on Blu-ray before, but this time Olive Films has thrown-in a plethora of new and vintage bonus features, all of which are entertaining and informative. Along with a great video & audio transfer, this is the best Blu-ray of the year. A must own for any cinephile, even if they own a previous version.
Honorable Mention: A Taxi Driver, Avengers - Infinity War, King Cohen, Abomidable (MVD Rewind Collection), A Trip to the Moon, The Man Who Haunted Himself, The Swarm (really!), Birdman of Alcatraz, Village of the Damned (1960), La Belle Noiseuse, Snowflake, Chasing the Dragon.
BLEH...THE WORST: As much as we love movies, there are times when reviewing them feels like an actual job. The following titles deserve to be buried in the litter box:
10. CRACKDOWN BIG CITY BLUES (The Film Detective) - While the late Paul DeSilva's message and sincerity are admirable, this previously unreleased relic from the 90s is a heavy-handed mess. Home-movie production values and amateurish performances are the least of its problems. Much of the time, Crackdown Big City Blues wavers uncomfortably back and forth between social commentary and gratuitous action, often with little or no transition. Worst of all, it's plodding, preachy, poorly executed and not nearly as relevant as it would have been three decades ago.
9. CALL OF THE UNDEAD (Wild Eye Releasing) - A slapdash mishmash of poor acting, dumb writing, hyperactive editing, a deafening metal soundtrack, gratuitous nudity and unimpressive zombie mayhem. It manages to be unintentionally humorous, compounded by the overly serious tone. But the piéce de résistance for bad movie lovers is the atrocious dubbing.
8. SUBURBICON (Paramount) - Considering the talent involved on both sides of the camera, Suburbicon was easily the most massively disappointing movie of the year. What should have been a creative home-run (or at-least an RBI double) is disjointed and dull, not helped by clumsy satire and failed attempts at black comedy.
7. TREMORS: A COLD DAY IN HELL (Universal) - They should've stuck a fork in this franchise after two movies. Instead, this sixth installment continues milking a once-amusing premise to death. Dreadful and embarrassing, even by direct-to-DVD standards. Is this the only work Michael Gross can get?
6. AFRAID (Well Go USA) - Excruciatingly slow "thriller" in which we're forced to watch two dull characters almost exclusively through surveillance cameras. Much of what transpires is seen from a distance, from the point-of-view of their stalker, which negates a lot of the suspense and makes it more of an endurance test than your typical found footage film.
5. SUPERCON (Sony) - Considering the premise, this is a sadly-squandered opportunity that might amuse undemanding middle school boys, but anyone looking for wit, clever satire or even well-staged physical gags will likely feel short-changed. An interminable parade of obnoxious characters, cheap gags, idiotic slapstick and overall mean-spiritedness.
4. STREETS OF VENGEANCE (Slasher Video) - From an aesthetic standpoint, the film looks and sounds exactly like the titillating, low budget erotic thrillers that cash-strapped Brian DePalma wannabes used to crank out in the 80s. Unfortunately, it unfolds exactly like one, too, just as dull, dumb and exploitative as those old films.
3. CRAZY SIX (MVD Marquee Collection) - With a cast like this, Crazy Six should have been 90 minutes of mindless fun. While there's mindlessness in abundance, the fun is conspicuously missing, even for fans of any of these actors. Dull and forgettable, the film has earned its anonymity.
2. GIRLS VS. GANGSTERS (Well Go USA) - Girls vs. Gangsters is not-only laugh free, it's narratively vapid and offensively stupid. Every attempt at humor is labored and desperate, with an abundance of scatological humor, leering shots of cleavage and even a rape joke for those who think that shit is funny. The three lead characters are shrill, obnoxious and irritating caricatures who generate zero empathy and even less likability.
1. DIAMONDS OF KILIMANDJARO (MVD Classics) - While there's plenty of unintentional humor, Diamonds of Kilimandjaro is kind-of monotonous and almost perversely voyeuristic. Star Katja Bienert (who's nearly naked throughout the entire film) was only 16 years old when she made this...and looks more like she's 14. Maybe some Jess Franco fans out there are willing to defend such a questionable casting choice, though I'm not sure I'd want to hear their argument.
Dishonorable Mention: Daddy's Home 2, Blast, The Exorcist Limited Edition Soundtrack (CD), Golden Temple Amazons, Flora, Rodin, Fanchon the Cricket, Blockers, The Hallelujah Trail
Thanks to the various studios, PR groups and distributors who've provided Free Kittens Movie Guide with the opportunity to feature their products and share our fickle opinions, including: Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Mill Creek Entertainment, Sony Pictures, Olive Films, Warner Archive, Well Go USA, Lionsgate, Blue Underground, VCI Entertainment, Arrow Films, MPI, MVD Entertainment, Eagle Vision, Cohen Media Group, Oscilloscope Labs, Wild Eye Releasing, Dark Sky Films, Flicker Alley, HBO, MPRM, Cohn & Wolfe, Click Communications, Justin Cook Public Relations, Vicki Greenleaf & Associates, Thinkjam, Rowan & Littlefield, Schiffer Publishing.