We’re already half way through 2018, can you believe it! There have been a lot of great projects that have hit theaters over the last six months but it’s very possible, and even likely, that you may have missed a few worthy films that have flown under the radar. As I did last year I took a look at films I personally have seen and reviewed that received wide release in the first half of 2018 and are amazing cinematic offerings worth checking out. Some of these movies ended up being overlooked due to poor timing, poor advertising, or a more limited release but if you get the chance to check them out they may just surprise you. These are my recommendations and selections for Ten Great Movies You May Have Missed in the First Half of 2018.
For this list I looked at any movies I personally felt were underrated in the first half of 2018 and didn’t get the audience attention they deserved. These had to be movies that received their largest release in 2018 so even if a movie was technically released in limited capacity in late 2017 as long as their expanded release was in 2018 I considered it. Obviously this list is not meant to focus on box office success stories. While many of these movies did earn a profit I feel their profits should have been larger and that audiences who passed on these movies or were unable to see the film due to limited theatrical releases truly missed out.
That being said this list is one that is completely subjective so I want to know from you, what movies from the first half of this year do you think deserve more attention? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you want more information on these underrated gems you can read my reviews of each movie on this list by clicking the name of the movie.
Steven Soderbergh is a mastermind of unique cinematic approaches and he proved that once again in early 2018 with an underground project simply known as “Unsane”. Completely filmed using an iPhone 7 Plus, “Unsane’s” telling of a woman’s struggle with her own sanity when she is wrongfully admitted to a mental hospital and finds herself struggling with the impact of a stalker is claustrophobic and mesmerizing. Simple cinematography and spectacular character development as well as mesmerizing screenwriting comes together to create a unique experience that rises above its gimmicky filming technique to give us a legitimate and engaging story. While it is bogged down by an unneeded crusade against the healthcare industry, “Unsane” proves to be one of the most stylish and pulse pounding thrillers of the year so far. One part psychological horror another part study of the mental impacts of abuse “Unsane” is a delightfully uncomfortable movie certainly worth your time.
Homosexuality and religion may be the low hanging fruits these days for cinematic storytelling but even with that in mind “Disobedience” proves to be a unique story of forbidden love worth investing in. Set within an Orthodox Jewish community where two women reignite their childhood love for each other, “Disobedience” tackles the issues of sexual and religious identity tastefully with a touch of much needed humanity. Great performances by stars Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams captivate viewers and provide a believable love story with sexy chemistry and full commitments to every scene and exchange. Despite its content “Disobedience” never loses itself in the action and takes things just far enough to be thought provoking and mesmerizing without pandering or losing focus on the characters’ struggles. It’s a movie destined to be controversial but provides important insight into a very modern social issue that most films tend to tiptoe around. It’s more about the experience than the entertainment and I truly believe this is a film you need to see for yourself to properly appreciate.
8. “Molly’s Game”
One of my first reviews of 2018 and a film that in limited release was considered one of 2017’s best, “Molly’s Game” earned a wide release after New Years Day and lived up to the buzz as a well-directed true life story. A top notch cast and a fast paced story keep you gripped to the screen as you experience a dramatized version of the real life “Poker Princess” Molly Blooms rise in the ranks. Incredible performances compliment an engaging story about a game often known more for its subtleties and slow pace and even if you’re not familiar with poker Molly’s narrations make it easy to follow. Charming, and unapologetic in its depiction of Molly’s struggle to maintain her poker empire “Molly’s Game” is a real life drama loaded with charisma and entertainment value that will keep you invested and longing for its main character to find a way out of a hole she dug herself into. In January I called it the first great film of 2018 and I wasn’t exaggerating. It still holds up even months later.
Billed as “American Psycho” meets “Heathers”, “Thoroughbreds” is a film I had my eye on for quite a few months in early 2018 and it did not disappoint. Telling the story of two friends, one who feels almost everything in terms of emotion and one completely emotionless, who plot the murder of one of their step fathers “Thoroughbreds” contains spot-on acting, an engaging and character-oriented story and a nice touch of arthouse production that makes it a significant viewing but not a pretentious film. Featuring two up-and-coming stars in Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cook in performances that should eliminate any doubt of their talents “Thoroughbreds” is an unapologetic crime and revenge movie that takes the concept of emotional extremes and adapts it into something fresh and wild. It’s an unpredictable masterpiece that makes the most of it’s simple premise and even adds a few darkly comedic moments in for some spice. And it’s not overly long. At an hour and a half I guarantee you won’t be bored watching these wicked young women do their thing.
6. “Isle of Dogs”
Wes Anderson is a genius of cinema, unfortunately his projects aren’t exactly built to entertain the masses. Even his fantastic animated projects don’t tend to get the love they deserve from the public at large because of their sophisticated approach and quirky style. That was the case with “Isle of Dogs” which was slowly rolled out to theaters nationwide and never really got the proper attention it very much should have earned from its quality alone. Telling the tale of a Japanese boy who travels to an island of quarantined dogs to find his own pup, “Isle of Dogs” is everything that makes Wes Anderson great with witty dry humor, great characters, and eye-popping stop-motion animation that make it one of the best animated features of the year to date. It might be a bit odd and more artistic than the animated projects people are used to seeing, but this adult friendly flick is slick, stylish and owns its premise. Like “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” before it “Isle of Dogs” proves animation isn’t limited to family friendly affairs. It’s a brilliant gem that sadly has gone overlooked in the early part of 2018.
Definitely a film for me that I did not expect to enjoy as much as I did, “Upgrade” came and went in the month of June and if you have yet to see it I implore you to give it a shot before its quick run is over. Focusing on a man paralyzed during an attack that leads to his wife’s death, the film follows the main character as he is introduced to an experimental technology that gives him back his mobility and helps him on his search for revenge. “Upgrade” continues the science fiction genre’s firm grip on 2018 by doing more with less as director and writer Leigh Whannell had to work on a tight budget to see his vision come to life. Stylishly shot and very well acted with an interesting moral center, “Upgrade” is one of those films that if given more faith from studios probably could have actually drawn in massive crowds just to see what the buzz was all about. Sadly, it’s limited release held it back, but those who did see the movie have given it good word of mouth. You can count me in that crowd as I see it as one of the most unexpectedly epic and fun cinema experiences I’ve had all year.
A timely drama that makes some stark points about modern day motherhood, “Tully” is the latest offering from writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman and recaptures the charm and amazing finesse and sincerity the duo first explored in 2007’s “Juno”. “Tully” features an Oscar-worthy performance by Charlize Theron as a mother who bonds with a night nanny hired to watch the mother’s newborn baby. The film explores the struggles of not only parenthood and aging, but also being young and wanting to take on the world as the two women share their struggles. It all leads to one of the best twists of 2018 that still gives me goosebumps just writing this even almost two months later. “Tully” might have been offered up too early to truly earn any Oscar buzz, but one can dream right? It’s a near perfect film in so many ways that holds nothing back. It’s thought provoking, memorable and engaging. I highly recommend it especially if you’re a mother or mother-to-be or just someone experiencing a major mid-life crisis in need of that feeling that someone somewhere understands the struggle.
3. “First Reformed”
The newest movie on this list, “First Reformed” hasn’t been out very long but it is currently a limited release offering so it deserves a spot here if only because it will inevitably go underappreciated in the weeks to come. A powerful film with great quotable dialogue and yet another potential Oscar worthy performance, this time by Ethan Hawke, “First Reformed” takes on the issues of modern religion and environmentalism without vilifying anyone who supports or denies either of these issues. The story sees a reverend struggling with his faith after experiencing a tragedy involving a man he was asked to help and challenges what religion has become and the tragic lengths one will go to change the world for the better in their own eyes. Filled with subtleties and thought-provoking cinematography and story elements that are not for the faint of heart, “First Reformed” may not be a film everyone might appreciate or understand but it’s one of those movies people SHOULD be able to appreciate if they truly see movies as an artform and not just entertainment. There’s still time to get this one under your belt this year and if you let it, this movie might just change your perspective on a lot of things, not just it’s central themes.
2. “I, Tonya”
The oldest movie on this list “I, Tonya” might not seem like it belongs because it was released at the end of 2017, but it’s widest release to the masses was in January of 2018 which makes it a 2018 movie in my book. The film received a lot of buzz as an Oscar contender and even earned Allison Janney the Best Supporting Actress Oscar but still made less than $50 million at the box office when all was said and done which to me is a criminally low number even with a messily $11 million budget. Margot Robbie stars as real-life controversial figure skater Tonya Harding and tells the story through Harding’s eyes leading to the infamous attack on her rival, Nancy Karrigan, before the 1994 Olympics. Shot partially in flashback format and partially as a faux-documentary “I, Tonya” is a fantastic comedy that blends history with fantasy and, somehow, makes you feel a bit more understanding of the divisive woman whose life inspired the film. It’s the only one of the many overlooked Oscar contenders from this year that made this list and if the awards buzz didn’t convince you this movie was worth a try, take it from a guy who’s not a big fan of comedy movies the hilarity and humor alone makes it worth every second.
I cannot lie that this movie is a strong contender for my favorite film of the year and it’s definitely in my top three for 2018 so far. Sadly, not too many people turned out to see what made this movie so incredible. Directed by Alex Garland, “Annihilation” suffered from a few setbacks on its way to the big screen as studios limited its theatrical release to only American audiences while other territories only got to experience the film on Netflix. This was the result of the companies behind the film being distrustful of the audience’s willingness to appreciate or invest in the imagery and symbolic storytelling Garland put into this story about five women who explore a mysterious alien territory engulfing the planet. The film suffered as a result, but the saddest part is the studios were kind of right. Audiences that did turn out couldn’t grasp the deeper elements of a story filled with visually stunning effects that had a lot to say but forced viewers to interpret the narrative for themselves. As a result, like 2017’s equally underrated “Mother!” before it, “Annihilation” left many confused and unwilling to give this film the credit it deserved. Thus those who made their decisions based on crowd buzz alone missed the opportunity to see an impressive science fiction epic where it truly should have been seen, on the big screen. Still I hold to my review of the movie. This is a film that deserves better and if you haven’t checked it out yet please take the time to appreciate it. It really does deserve to be seen and respected.