Sundance Kicks Off a Huge Year for First-Time Directors
(Photo by © A24)
It’s “Wakanda Forever” at the Box Office
(Photo by © Marvel Studios)
In mid-to-late January, box office watchers began to notice that Black Panther was tracking well. Really, really well. They began to predict an $80 million opening. And then a $100 million opening. By the week of its release, with online pre-sales soaring beyond expectations, some prognosticators were predicting a bigger opening than Thor: Ragnarok. And indeed, they were right. But BP opened even bigger than that, launching with a $202 million weekend – and $241.9 million across the full four-day President’s Day weekend – and going on to earn $700 million domestically, $1.347 billion globally, and become the ninth highest-grossing movie ever. It was huge. The film was also good: Black Panther sat at 100% on the Tomatometer for a solid stretch in the days before its release, leaving some to hope it might be the first “perfect” superhero movie. Alas, it would go on to land a handful of Rotten write-ups, but its eventual 97% Certified Fresh score still makes it the best reviewed superhero movie of all time. Eight months later, with the catchphrase “Wakanda Forever” firmly a part of pop culture and director Ryan Coogler signed on for a sequel, the film is generating serious Oscar buzz. “First superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture”? We wouldn’t bet against this record-breaker.
A Quiet Place is the best and biggest horror movie of the year
South By Southwest audiences have a reputation for being a little extra: they whoop and holler at screenings and occasionally bring a little too much inflated hype home with them from Austin. So you could have been forgiven for dismissing the “OMFG” reactions to A Quiet Place coming out of the festival. But the hype was real. John Krasinski’s horror film, hinging on that ingenious “don’t make a sound” conceit, was a game-changer: a terrifying no-holds-barred action-horror ride; the fourth highest grossing horror movie ever at the U.S. box office; and, at 95% and Certified Fresh, the best-reviewed horror film of the year. Naturally, Krasinski is busy writing the sequel, which early reports suggest could focus on a different group of survivors.
“Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good…”
Eight months later and we’re not over it Thanos’s universe-halving snap. Bring on Endgame.
Cobra Kai Certified Fresh at 100%
Netflix Becomes the Rom-Com King
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Expanse, and More Fan Favorites Saved from Cancellation
Roseanne Fired, The Connors Is Born
(Photo by ABC/Robert Trachtenberg)
Mr. Rogers Heralds the Year of the Doc
(Photo by Jim Judkis/© Focus Features)
James Gunn Out of Guardians Franchise
One minute, writer-director James Gunn was Instagramming the cover of his just-finished Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 script; the next Disney was booting him from the project and throwing the future of the mega franchise into doubt. You will likely recall the reasons: A series of Gunn’s years-old inappropriate tweets resurfaced in July and, under pressure from various groups and in an effort to maintain that squeaky-clean Mouse House image, Disney and Marvel decided to cut ties. Guardians cast members came to Gunn’s defense, but it was not enough; fans are still none-the-wiser as to whether the project is moving forward, and if it is, whether Gunn’s script will be used. Marvel’s loss would ultimately be DC’s gain, with Gunn jumping on board Suicide Squad 2 as writer just a few months later, a move many fans applauded. If anyone can work magic on the story of a rag-tag bunch of shouldn’t-be-heroes, it’s Gunn.
Crazy Rich Asians Has a “Gold” Run
(Photo by © Warner Bros. Pictures)
Writer Kevin Kwan and director Jon M. Chu turned down offers from Netflix to adapt Kwan’s books for the streaming service, saying they felt the movie had to be shown in theaters – they wanted Asian audiences to see themselves reflected on the big screen. The gamble paid off. Not only was Crazy Rich Asians — the first wide-release mainstream film with a largely Asian and Asian-American lead cast in 25 years – a landmark event for representation, it was a huge financial success for Warner Bros. In the lead-up to the movie’s release, the filmmakers and cast had been encouraging audiences to turn out and create a “gold open,” and the film topped the box office with $35.3 million over its first five days in early August. And then the fans kept coming; CRA was one of the leggiest movies of the year, making $174 million domestically. The movie also made instant stars of Awkwafina – who would go on to be just the second Asian-American woman to host SNL – as well as Henry Golding, whom audiences got a second helping of in Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor, and who has now been cast in Feig’s forthcoming Last Christmas and Guy Ritchie’s Toff Guys. Meanwhile, the movie’s star, Constance Wu, is up for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, and Michelle Yeoh is considered an outside chance for a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Oscars.
The New Oscar Category That Wasn’t
In August, the Academy announced a number of big changes, including a shortened ceremony, the removal of a number of categories from the live broadcast, and, most controversially, the introduction of a new category that would honor excellence in “popular film.” The outcry was immediate and loud, with many shellacking the Academy for further ghettoizing popular filmmaking just as it seemed we were starting to see worthy blockbusters and genre movies, like last year’s Get Out, getting traction in top-of-the-line categories. It felt like a particularly poor move for this year, given that Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians are being seen as serious contenders for Best Film nominations. Eventually, the Academy saw the light, and quietly announced they would not be moving forward with the new category. Since then, the Academy had a super-smooth year, not having to deal with any more controversies whatsoever.
Shirtless Jason Statham + Giant Shark = Huge Hit
(Photo by © Warner Bros. Pictures)
For whatever reason, the world was in the mood for a giant shark movie in 2018. The Meg, riding a wave of clever tongue-in-cheek marketing – the “Pleased to eat you” poster was our favorite – made $530 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing Chinese-American co-production ever. Producers behind the film have hinted that a sequel is in the works, and there are plans for a Meg-inspired theme park in China.
Nic Cage Gets Wilder (Even Wilder Than Usual) in Mandy
The Cage-aissance continued apace in 2018, with everyone’s favorite wild man kicking off the year as one half of a child-killing couple in Mom and Dad and following that up in September with his best performance since Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans in horror-flick–slash-fever-dream, Mandy. The movie, which co-stars Andrea Riseborough, came out of Sundance with some well-deserved buzz and would go on to be Certified Fresh at 92%. It was Cage’s highest Tomatometer score since 1997’s Face/Off, until another film came along this December…
DC Universe Streaming Service Launches
Venom and Bohemian Rhapsody Divide Critics and Audiences, Conquer Box Office
The Spectacularly Spooky Haunting of Hill House
In a TV landscape with nearly 500 scripted series airing in 2018, a seemingly low-profile horror drama series based on a 1959 novel isn’t necessarily the first natural candidate for one of the biggest breakout series of the year. But Netflix’s tense, spooky take on Shirley Jackson’s Gothic horror novel The Haunting of Hill House from genre vet Mike Flanagan combined a top-notch ensemble cast and groundbreaking filmmaking techniques for a genuinely scary haunted-house tale.
Netflix Axes Its Marvel Series
(Photo by Sarah Shatz/Netflix)
He Just Wants To Take Another Look at You
(Photo by © Warner Bros. Pictures)
Anyone skeptical that Bradley Cooper was hiding serious directing chops or that Lady Gaga was a movie star in the making was likely converted into true believer when A Star Is Born opened in theaters in early October. After debuting at Venice and playing Toronto, the movie immediately jumped to the front of many awards pundits’ “most likely” lists, and is still heavily favored in the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress categories. Star had box office legs, too, opening with a huge $40 million, despite being up against Venom that first weekend, and eventually crossing the $200 million mark. But perhaps the biggest measure of the movie’s success is its level of meme-ification. We watched on here at Rotten Tomatoes HQ as Gaga stans @-ed us on Twitter with bizarre and hilarious GIFs showing Gaga with dancing Fresh tomatoes, while the internet did its work with the “Just wanna take another look at you” line, and that Gaga smile. It only takes one GIF-maker to believe in you, we guess.
Halloween Rejuvenates Slasher Genre
The Movies Mourn Stan Lee
The comic-book legend died in November, at age 95, and rather than mourn, fans and those who worked with Lee were quick to celebrate the incredible career of the man who created or co-created the X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and more. Lee’s death made his short appearance in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, one of his final cameos, incredibly moving. Speaking of…
The World Enters the Spider-Verse and Never Wants to Leave
Paddington 2 Holds Onto 100% (along with some others)
The British bear sequel is still at 100% on the Tomatometer, almost a year since it was released – but it’s not the only one. Debra Granik’s incredible Leave No Trace, starring Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie as a father-daughter duo attempting to live off the map, also maintains a perfect score, along with Carla Simón’s Summer 1993, skate documentary Minding the Gap, Oh Lucy!, Shirkers, and Night Comes On.