I watched them. I know they're good. Now it's your turn to watch them!
Underrated & Unappreciated
I’ve been thinking about doing this list for a while. Within the last remaining months of 2018, I began to realize that there were a lot of movies that I thought were particularly good and worthy of success yet were either met with critical or financial failure. Sometimes both. As time went on during the course of last year, the list of films that I regarded as underrated or simply unappreciated by fellow movie-goers grew. There were many cinematic efforts that I believe had truly shined in one way or another with its material, yet general audiences lashed out against them or didn’t even bother seeing them. So here I am now, with my list of flicks from last year that I believe deserve way more credit and reward than they initially received. In this list I will attempt to discuss why I believe that they deserved a little bit more than what most seemed to have been willing to give at the times of their release and even delve into a little as to why they may have failed in reception or box office numbers. Are all of these movies I’m about to list complete masterpieces? No, not at all. Many of them are certainly flawed, but in my opinion,they still turn in an enjoyable piece of entertainment that I don’t think should be glossed over as they seem to have been. A few of these films on this list even made it onto my top twenty favorite films last year, but I tried my best to limit that down as best as I could in order to avoid redundancy. With that being said, here is my list of the most underrated and unappreciated films that I saw from 2018!
20. The Predator
88 Million Dollars
160.5 Million Dollars
This is pretty low on the list with only hitting last place because at the end of the day the film still did make a pretty solid profit, but it was met with some extremely scathing hatred from the fan base and critics alike, which is why it still makes it on my list for being somewhat unappreciated. I honestly and truly do not know what it is with the general audience and their disappointment/hatred with every installment of the Predator franchise that has come out since the 1987 Schwarzenegger original classic. Every sequel that has ever been released, setting aside the Alien vs Predator movies, have been met with some major backlash and it takes so many years to ever get another installment added to the series and I have no clue as to why that is. In the year 1990 we were given the very first sequel, which featured Danny Glover in the lead, and I still find that to be one of the most underrated films of all time because it is wildly entertaining. But because it was met with such anger from the fan base, we didn’t get an official Predator sequel (again, setting aside the AVP movies) for twenty years. It took twenty years to get a stand alone Predator film again. That being the 2010 Robert Rodriguez produced Predators, which I also thought was a fun and solid action flick that for whatever reason was hated by seemingly everyone because after that it took another eight years to get what is now Shane Black’s The Predator. Not perfect by any means; it has issues in terms of tone, some of the CGI is relatively lackluster and overall the writing comes off as an early 90s B-movie knockoff of Predator, but that is what I also found to be part of its charm. Plus the gore effects are pretty fun to watch as well as the characters are all pretty likable with some fairly colorful and goofy personalities that I couldn’t help but have a good time with.
If I were to guess as to why this failed in reception, other than the weird curse that this movie series has, I’d say it was largely due to the advertising campaign being pretty bad. Making the film come across as unfunny and kind of lame, it even threw me off when I saw the trailers for The Predator. However, with most movies, I went in with an open mind and what I came out with was some pretty decent entertainment. I don’t think the rest of the world went in that way though and that may be why the majority of viewers disliked their experience since they may have gone in simply wanting to hate the movie. Do I know this for sure? No. All I can do is theorize and give a general hunch as to why, I don’t really know for sure. But all I know is that it seems like I’m in a small boat on this one. I might be wrong and this is just a hunk of crap that I enjoyed. But I would say it’s still worth a watch at least. It’s not my favorite of the Predator series, but I still found enough to be entertained by it. Take that for what it’s worth, I suppose.
The Predator on Amazon Prime Video
19. Den of Thieves
30 Million Dollars
80.5 Million Dollars
This pick is another that is more based on critical reception rather than financial, but again this was a really fun and actually rather ambitious action flick that was met with underwhelming reception from critics. Most of which calling Den of Thieves no more than a rip-off of Michael Mann’s crime thriller epic, Heat. And… yes, I can’t deny that is kind of true. It borrows heavily from that film, but just because Den of Thieves is far from original, doesn’t mean that there can’t be fun to be had here. Gerard Butler gives the most Gerard Butler of Gerard Butler on steroid performances of his whole career and it is really kind of amazing to witness. Also, the level of world building that the writing accomplishes in order to establish every character and their personal lives was a rather pleasant surprise that I didn’t anticipate when I went into the movie. However, there are other shortcomings that the film does have in its writing as it is rather convoluted. Particularly with its ending that is pretty sloppy. But overall, Den of Thieves is a lot of fun and oddly enough breezed by in its over two hour runtime. Perfect? Again, not even close. But entertaining as hell and that’s really all I can ask for from Gerard Butler being awesome.
Den of Thieves on Amazon Prime Video
18. Three Identical Strangers
[ESTIMATED] 1 - 4 Million Dollars
12.3 Million Dollars
If I were to guess, I would say that Three Identical Strangers probably made a profit against whatever budget it had, but sadly I could only find an estimate on Wikipedia; which is not all that reliable of a source to say the least. I would assume it couldn’t have cost more than a couple million to produce as the site suggests, but it still feels like somewhat of a shame that this was still barely seen by much of anyone in the entirety of the planet Earth because this documentary was actually really intriguing to watch. I was charmed by the relationship between these three separated at birth triplets and as the story kept unfolding in how their unbelievable predicament came to be, my eyes were glued and my ears were perked to figure out what happened to these three guys. There are even some disturbing allusions that this film makes, leading to some pretty largescale schemes that may have been afoot that resulted in everything that ever happened to these guys as well as other sets of twins that were separated at birth. I will say that it seems probably a bit far fetched as they don’t really have enough proof to support their case about certain things, but at the same time they do acknowledge that they don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle and that what they found could mean anything. But the things they did discover does imply some terrible things that people in power could have been allowing to happen to infants back in the 1960s.
Setting all that aside, the story of these three guys that find out they are identical siblings in their late teens is remarkable and very engaging as I wanted to know all about them and see how their relationship bloomed. It was really cool to watch the events that happened back in 1980s and early 1990s with these three likable doofuses. Unfortunately, with most documentaries, their life on the big screen just doesn’t have much hope as the majority of movie-goers aren’t interested in seeing something that they could easily enjoy at home. There’s usually not much of a theatrical experience inside of a documentary to justify the ticket price at a local theater. Even when they are as good as Three Identical Strangers. I can’t say that I blame people, I’m also part of the problem. But I still believe that this film deserves some real love and attention and I hope that it is getting it on its life with home video. So please, by all means, if this sounds intriguing enough to you then I would say it’s worth checking out!
Three Identical Strangers on Amazon Prime Video
17. Sorry to Bother You
3.2 Million Dollars
17.4 Million Dollars
I loved Sorry to Bother You. This easily made it on my top twenty best films from last year; it’s weird, hilarious, smart, and was one of the most original films I saw all year. For some reason though, this movie had a rather limited release as it was only shown in approximately 800 theaters initially. Not only that, but also had to compete against a Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson blockbuster tentpole flick, Sykscraper, as well as Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. Granted, the movie made nearly six times its budget back, but it still seemed like theaters were resistant to screen the film. I can’t quite pinpoint as to why, but maybe it was simply too weird for general audiences.
The marketing campaign I thought did a terrific job at advertising the film so I can’t say that it wasn’t heard of by a large sum and anyone I ever talked to about the trailers for Sorry to Bother You always seemed enthusiastic to check it out. But sadly it just didn’t seem to gain that large of a release. Yes, the movie gets pretty weird and takes some crazy risks, particularly in its third act. I don’t think that warranted the hesitation from movie theaters giving it a proper wide release though. Unfortunately, that’s not my call and I will never really know the true reason why this wasn’t shown in more theaters. Maybe it was simply a money issue and the distributors could not afford to get into more theaters, maybe they didn’t have enough faith in the project. Who knows for sure, but what I will say is that it deserves more than what it got instead of being sidelined by two other movies that were guaranteed to gain the larger numbers that weekend.
Sorry to Bother You on Amazon Prime Video
16. Bad Times at the El Royale
32 Million Dollars
31.9 Million Dollars
Oddly enough, for the first financial failure on the list, is the one I thought would surely make money at the time of its release. I saw ads and previews everywhere for Bad Times at the El Royale, all of them being exceptionally strong. The hype from fans of Drew Goddard’s last directorial efforts, Cabin in the Woods, appeared pretty high for his next venture. Reviews and audience consensus were even positive across the board upon its release, many claiming it to be among their favorites of the year. Yet somehow Bad Times as the El Royale didn’t even manage to make its own budget back in box office returns. That strikes me as a bit odd. I will say that even though I liked it, I didn’t love it as much as everyone else seemed to have; I had issues with it in pacing as it drags quite often in certain segments, resulting in several minutes that should have been removed from the final cut. However, I still believe that it should have at least made some money. It has a Tarantino-esque quality to the writing and editing that I really enjoyed and I thought that Chris Hemsworth’s hippy, Charles Manson performance alone was worth the ticket price.
The story is engaging, the characters and acting are entrancing, there are some real intense scenes that kept me on edge, and it maintains a stylish 1960s aesthetic in its setting that I found simply cool. May not be perfect, but it is a decent sit. I just wish I knew why it failed at the box office. Maybe the advertising was too vague? Maybe it didn’t appeal enough to the masses? It is possible that the particularly long runtime of nearly two and a half hours hurt it financially in some way. That and also it did have to go up against First Man and Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, both of which did fairly well at the box office. So adding all that together then I guess it kind of makes sense. Even though I could have sworn I found much more anticipation among the internet for Bad Times at the El Royale over the other too, but clearly I was wrong. Regardless of all that though, I know that this movie surely has its fans that really enjoy it, so at least it is finding its audience. I just wish that it could have made a little more from movie-goers. Oh well, I suppose.
My Review of 'Bad Times at the El Royale'
- 'Bad Times at the El Royale' (2018) Movie Review
The year is 1969. The place is the run down El Royale hotel. The players are a priest, a singer, a vacuum salesman, a hippy, a cult leader, and a concierge. The night is anything but ordinary as secrets are uncovered and madness ensues.
Bad Times at the El Royale on Amazon Prime Video
2.9 Million Dollars
102 Thousand Dollars
Revenge is the movie that easily made the least amount of money out of anything on this list, but the sad thing is that I completely understand as to why. It’s an indie, rape revenge exploitation movie that had an extremely limited theatrical release and is very… VERY French. This movie didn’t have a chance, which is too bad because this film was quite stylish, suspenseful, experimental, and well made for a small budget exploitation flick. And I guarantee that if this were released in the early-mid 80s by an American filmmaker, this probably would have been a hit and became a cult classic along films like Ms .45 and The Hitcher. It just has those vibes in terms of its tone, material, and filmmaking quality. As much as I enjoyed Revenge a lot and thought that the actors all did terrific in their roles, there does come a point in the last act where the climax became ridiculously silly and it really took me right out of the intensity of the lead’s deadly predicament, but for the most part I enjoyed myself immensely. If only this film were made thirty-five to forty years ago, this would have been much more prominently screened in the states at least. But now I fear it will struggle to find much of an audience at all in this oversaturated market today. My fingers are crossed because there is definitely a lot to love here and it deserves the recognition, only time will tell.
Revenge on Amazon Prime Video
38 Million Dollars
41.6 Million Dollars
Barely making its own budget back, Overlord is a Nazi/Zombie exploitation film that is a sheer blast to watch. I had an unbelievably great time watching this movie. But unfortunately my viewing experience was not in the theater, also making me part of the problem. Not because I didn’t want to check it out, I was simply not able to get a chance. At least I can say I wasn’t one of the millions of morons that decided to feed Illumination’s The Grinch over 500 million dollars instead of paying some back to Overlord. That to me is a crime that The Grinch, one of the most generic and toothless movies I saw all year gets half a billion dollars while Overlord being one of the more exhilarating and creative examples of 2018 barely gets squat. It’s stupid quite frankly. Illumination gets rewarded time after time for playing things safe in their animations, not showing the least bit of spine so they may be sure not to upset a single person in the audience, to the point where the Grinch himself isn’t even really the Grinch anymore in their version; he’s just somewhat of a kind of grumpy guy that almost always apologizes for being a jerk throughout the whole movie, that is how afraid the studio is to scare or upset anyone. While, Overlord provides in your face gory exploitation that harkens back to something akin to the Nazi-spoiltation flicks of the 1970s with a little bit of Shock Waves sprinkled in and the story structure resembles the one of From Dusk til Dawn. It is just a really fun and cool flick that is unapologetic in its direction. The film knows that it’s absurd and over-the-top, but it goes for it and I dug that.
I guess it’s nice that it managed to scrounge up a few million against its budget, but at the end of the day the studios and producers look at the box office numbers and when the numbers say for them to play it more safe like what Illumination keeps doing with their animated movies then what encourages them to take any risks when something like Overlord basically flops? That really does kind of tick me off. I thought The Grinch was dreadful and treated its audience like complete morons that can’t handle anything that isn’t 100% happy and constantly kept everything on screen moving as though they were afraid if anything remained still for too long then it would lose the attention of the viewer. Overlord instead kept its plot moving and included moments of suspense and action in much more naturally fun ways. It’s funny because in terms of their critical and audience reception, Overlord is way more beloved by the viewers over The Grinch. Yet, for whatever reason, you all kept seeing The Grinch enough times to stuff Illumination’s pockets for years. Stupid. You’re all stupid. I’m sorry, that’s rude… but you’re stupid. To an extent, I get it. It was early November, Halloween had just passed and you’re getting into the Christmas spirit as you breeze past Thanksgiving, you got kids and they want to see bright flashy colors for an hour and a half… in that case, have some balls and take your kids to see Overlord. You know the kind of stuff I grew up with? The films from my childhood make Overlord look like it’s rated G. Your kids can handle it. But in all seriousness, I think that if Overlord had been released on its original date within the month of October then it probably would have done pretty well for itself. As it is, it made a little money, but in the eyes of the studios, it might as well have made nothing at all. And that sucks.
Overlord on Amazon Prime Video
40 Million Dollars
43.1 Million Dollars
This is one that really pisses me off because Annihilation’s box office numbers aren’t at the fault of the marketing department, the theaters, or even the movie-goers. General audiences wanted to see Annihilation and the advertising done was handled exceptionally. This is the fault of one man, producer David Ellison. After a test screening that didn’t go over as well as he had hoped, Ellison motioned to the director to make changes in order to ‘dumb’ down the film so it may be more easily digestible for larger demographics as he deemed the film “too intellectual” and “too complicated”. David Ellison also wanted Natalie Portman’s character to be severely re-written in order to create more sympathy for her, as well as an entirely different ending. Director/writer, Alex Garland, and producer Scott Rudin declined Ellison’s demands, since they had the say in the final cut of the film, Annihilation remained untouched. That didn’t sit well with Ellison though, resulting in a deal with Netflix to take the film onto its site a mere two weeks after its theatrical release date and was pulled from theaters shortly after.
In that short amount of time it did somehow put up a respectable fight at the box office by making a little over its budget back while going up against Game Night as well as the conglomerate that was Black Panther, which was still raking in money like crazy at that point. However, if Annihilation were given the proper theatrical release that it was promised instead of being pulled in order to be shipped immediately onto the streaming network, I think it could have proven a modest success. And maybe a release date that wasn’t so shortly after a Marvel Studio’s release. But luckily the movie is gaining an audience that love and respect the film for its heart pounding intensity, stunning visuals, and thought provoking writing.
Annihilation on Amazon Prime Video
12. Hotel Artemis
[ESTIMATED] 15 Million Dollars
12.7 Million Dollars
How the hell did this happen?! This had an extremely wide release, showing in over two thousand theaters upon its initial screening date yet somehow did so poorly that it was stripped down to less than two hundred theaters within only a couple of weeks. Why? I honestly don’t get it. The movie is like a cool blend of the John Wick universe mixed in with Escape From New York that stars the likes of Sterling K. Brown, Jodie Foster, Jeff Goldblum, and Charlie Day chewing scenery left and right. Yet no one wanted to see it? I really do not know why, because it was kind of awesome. Flawed? Sure. But surpasses its faults through its long line of entertaining strengths in its uniquely gritty, yet suave world and fantastically juicy performances.
Maybe the financial failure of Hotel Artemis came from a marketing standpoint, even though I did see a fair amount of ads for the film, I will say that I saw tons more from its two competitors of its weekend release. Those being the highly acclaimed horror masterpiece, Hereditary, and the wildly bland and forgettable Ocean’s 8. One of which made nearly 300 million dollars worldwide, can you guess which one? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the one that made it on most of everyone’s ‘Best of’ movie end year lists. That’s right, Ocean’s 8, the movie that everyone claimed they thought looked mediocre from the trailers apparently supplied that movie almost 300 million dollars. Thankfully a fair amount still supported Hereditary, but there was practically no love given to Hotel Artemis which is depressing. I can’t say that upon viewing Ocean’s 8 that I hated the movie back then, I was mainly bored and found it to be a pandering cash grab. Now learning it was probably at fault for the financial destruction of Hotel Artemis… f*ck you Ocean’s 8. F*ck you.
It’s also depressing to think that this is Drew Pearce’s directorial debut, a man who has proven himself to be a pretty skilled writer with his works on Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Then when he finally gets a chance to shine behind the camera, the result is a total bomb. My fingers are crossed that Pearce will recover from this devastating blow in his career, but at least I can say that the end product ended up being a fantastically cool flick. If you get the chance, I strongly recommend checking yourselves into the Hotel Artemis!
Hotel Artemis on Amazon Prime Video
11. The Sisters Brothers
38 Million Dollars
10.7 Million Dollars
The trailers were a terrible representation of what The Sisters Brothers actually is, and that is part of my hunch as to why this flopped pretty hard at the box office. Every trailer made this out to be a screwball comedy with a tone that appeared to be poorly replicating the Coen brothers writing style. That is not this movie at all, in fact, I wouldn’t even call this a comedy. There are darkly funny moments here and there, but for the most part I would say that this is a old western drama with world building levels of writing that feel heavily inspired by the works of Michael Cimino. The Sisters Brothers incorporates such gritty attention to detail with truly how awful it was to live in the old west and how basically anything could literally kill someone back then, practically making itself the more serious and much better version of A Million Ways to Die in the West. However, with the misguided marketing campaign, as well as the fact that it released alongside the long awaited sequel to John Carpenter’s classic slasher, that being David Gordan Green’s Halloween, it was doomed to fail. Hell, even I saw Halloween over The Sisters Brothers. Granted, it wasn’t playing in my area, but to tell you the truth that probably would have been the case for me regardless. But I do hope that people don’t write this film off as being nothing more than John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix screwing around in the old west for a couple hours. This has a great amount of ambition and intelligence put into it and I think it should been witnessed by more movie lovers. If you’re not too busy, then have yourselves a ride back in time where everything sucked!
The Sisters Brothers on Amazon Prime Video
10. Bad Samaritan
1 Million Dollars
4.4 Million Dollars
You may be wondering, “what the hell is Bad Samaritan?” Well my fellow readers, it’s the other movie that was released the same weekend as the remake to Overboard. And if you paid to see Overboard instead, you should be kicking yourselves because you missed out on one hell of a tense filled ride as David Tennant is downright terrifying in this Michal Mann-esque psychological thriller. It has its fair share of ‘dumb’ moments, but overall maintains a story that I chewed my nails through the whole way. But I can’t say that I blame people for not seeing Bad Samaritan since I barely ever saw a single shred of advertisement for the movie, and when it was finally released it was practically the theater’s dirty little secret. Nobody knew. I don’t know why this happened, but either the producers or the studios really dropped the ball here and let the unfunny pointlessness starring Anna Ferris take the lead in the box office. It makes no sense, but I can only hope that on home video people may discover this hidden gem as a terrific thrill ride. While I don’t think that this would have ever made a major splash if properly marketed, I still think this still could have brought in some impressive enough numbers to solidify its existence. Technically it did make four times its budget back, but that’s only because it was so cheap to produce. Which was probably its only saving grace. Please check this out, I promise it is well worth a watch for Tennant’s unnerving performance alone.
Bad Samaritan on Amazon Prime Video
9. Hell Fest
5.5 Million Dollars
17.5 Million Dollars
Hell Fest makes the list because, honestly, I just miss when slashers reigned supreme in the horror genre. Don’t get me wrong, I too enjoy my ghost and exorcism flicks when they’re done right. But within the last decade or so, that is practically all we get now while slashers have become merely a footnote in today’s modern horror trends. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, slashers were one of the most profitable and popular in the cinema. Then the 1990s came along and interjected a cynical attitude with excessive amounts of meta-humor, made more to mock the horror genre rather than celebrate it. Then the 2000s hit and the characters became less likable and written to be more so disliked in order to not upset audiences if a character they like dies. Then somewhere down the line came in the dreaded PG-13 slasher… I’m sorry, but PG-13 and SLASHER should NEVER be in the same sentence together. To watch a PG-13 rated slasher is like watching a comedy with all the jokes taken out. It doesn’t make any sense and defeats the purpose of ever watching a slasher. I’m not saying that all horror films need to be rated R, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But when it comes to the slasher genre, a genre built around the idea of gore and slashing, you kind of need the gore and slashing in your SLASHER! Otherwise it comes off as a neutered waste of time, especially in that period in the mid-late 2000s where every character on screen was a moronic jackass.
Seemingly after the critical failures of the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street reboots, slashers seemed to have gone the wayside somewhat over the years. Slashers were in basically a dead state in the 2010s, only occasionally we would be treated to a slasher, for the most part it was merely sequels/reboots to pre-existing slasher franchises such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, Scream 4 or SCRE4M, Silent Night, and even a couple of Child’s Play installments that never made much of a splash. There were other slasher standouts of course, but really the horror genre has been overly saturated with exorcisms, paranormal activities, ghosts, and haunted party games for the last ten years. Some are great, some are terrible, but I miss the variety. I miss the slashers that I grew up with; give me the fun bloody effects work and lovable characters that do their best to thwart the efforts of a deranged and murderous psychopath any day!
In the last couple years a few slashers have popped up, but we’ve also gotten an odd resurgence of the PG-13 slasher in both of the Happy Death Day films. To be fair, Happy Death Day turned out to be rather enjoyable and even endearing flick, but the PG-13 rating is still a major black eye to the film as a whole as it takes away from the creative kills that the movie tries to supply but can’t. (At this point of writing, the sequel has not been released yet) Moving on from that, 2018 actually managed to release a few R rated slashers such as The Strangers: Prey at Night, Halloween, and Hell Fest. For me, it is satisfying to see horror films getting bloody again. While Halloween earned by far the more impressive amount, the other two did manage to make a little money as well. They were sadly nowhere near the heights they would have been at in the box office thirty-some years ago though and that kind of hurts my heart a little bit. The only reason Halloween even made as much money as it did is simply on name recognition alone of the hugely beloved horror franchise. If it were any other unknown masked killer with a different title, I guarantee it would also made only a scratch with its numbers. I know that for a fact because that is exactly what Hell Fest is.
Why has the slasher subgenre become the black sheep of the horror family? Is it because of that dark age of terrible slashers in the decade of the 2000s so people have become weary of them? Have general audiences lost interest in slashers since they seem more inclined to provide their money to the more supernatural genres? I suppose that might be the case since the worst horror movie of 2018, in my opinion, Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare made more at the box office than Prey at Night and Hell Fest combined. Why though? Why does that seem to warrant more screenings from movie-goers over something like Hell Fest? Truth or Dare from its advertising came across as an uninspired paranormal haunting via a party game. The premise looked inept and that was apparent in all of its marketing. Hell Fest looked like a fun blood fest that held the spirit of an 80s slasher. Again, all fairly apparent in the ads and previews. Truth or Dare makes 95 million dollars worldwide while Hell Fest made 17. I don’t get it. I honestly and truly do not get it. Maybe slashers had their day and it is long over with. Without an already large and established fanbase, I don’t think there can be another major hit in the slasher genre. Which I honestly hate saying that, I grew up with slashers and I mourn the fact there will likely never be another new fun slasher series that gets regularly released every year or two. It’s just never going to happen. Even though Hell Fest isn’t great by any means, it is fun and I wouldn’t have minded a sequel quite frankly. But with its returns, I doubt that will become a priority with the studio heads. If Hell Fest peaks your fancy and you miss just a fun slasher then check this out, it’s not great but it’s a good slice and dice of a time.
Hell Fest on Amazon Prime Video
8. Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
Netflix Streaming with Limited Theatrical Release
This mess up seems to be on Netflix’s end here since Andy Serkis intended for his passion project to have been given a wide release in theaters, then for some reason after Netflix purchased the distribution rights, they only gave it a limited release and fairly quickly threw it onto their streaming site. Maybe Netflix didn’t have much faith in the project. Maybe they feared it would have done poorly at the box office since there was already a Jungle Book remake two short years prior. Or maybe they were worried that the special effects not being on par with something out of a Marvel movie might deter audiences. I mean… have you seen that CGI mountain lion in A Dog’s Way Home? That thing looks atrocious and yet that movie is playing in over three thousand theaters. I honestly haven’t a clue why Netflix didn’t support Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, but I still feel like this probably could have been released on the big screen and it could have been fine. Maybe not. But it disappoints me that Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is by far the better version compared to 2016’s Jungle Book remake, yet that made nearly a billion dollars at the box office for being nothing more than a tonal mess while Mowgli actually has way more heart interjected into its writing and filmmaking but is thrown up on Netflix like it’s nothing.
Supposedly Mowgli had a limited release in theaters, but I never saw it screened anywhere near where I live so I guess I’ll have to take the internet’s word on that. I couldn’t even find how much it made in its limited run, so who knows. But I think Mowgli deserved a little more than this. Especially with how passionate Serkis was about making this film and it certainly shows in every frame. It seems that his efforts were unfavorably compared to Jon Favreau’s 2016 remake by critics as well, which I still find to be odd that everyone seems to have utterly fallen for that remake while I’m one of few that saw it as simply ‘okay’. As time goes on, I find myself becoming more irritated with that version though since I feel that if Mowgli had come out first and were given the wide distribution in theaters, I think critics and audiences would have agreed that it was great while the other was ‘middle of the road’ at best. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Maybe someday Serkis’s second directorial efforts will find its audience and become a cult classic, but I fear that this underrated gem may get lost in the jungle.
My Review of 'Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle'
- Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018) Movie Review
Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves in the jungle, has come of age and must prove himself worthy to be part of the pack. If he fails then he will be forced out and left to be the prey of the blood thirsty tiger, Shere Khan.
[ESTIMATED] 16 Million Dollars
7.4 Million Dollars
Mid90s was shown in about twelve hundred theaters yet seemingly flew under the radar with movie-goers. Maybe the visual aesthetic kept people out of seats for this one, being that Jonah Hill’s directorial debut was completely shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which may have relinquished its cinematic quality for the general audience. If I were spit balling, I would say that may have something to do with it. I know that the ads were all over the place for this one. I couldn’t watch a video on YouTube without seeing a quick promo for Mid90s. I really do wish that more people went to check this one out because I actually kind of love this movie. Maybe it’s because I grew up not far off from this time period with fairly similar experiences in terms of friendships displayed here and the fact that the film was such a blast from the past for me that I couldn’t help but to get extremely giddy about seeing this world again. It is one hell of a time capsule, right down to how the characters speak just reminded me of living back then. It was really cool to live in that specific time again for about eighty minutes.
Unfortunately, this was released in late October. Not long after the release of the new Halloween installment, which soaked up the majority of the box office at the time, leaving little room for indies like Mid90s to shine. Although I will say that the budget that I found for the movie just has to be a mistake, unfortunately I couldn’t find any other sources to say otherwise. However, I find it unlikely that Mid90s cost sixteen million dollars to produce. Maybe I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t have put the budget anywhere over five at the most. That’s me being generous. I don’t know, all I could find was that it supposedly took sixteen million dollars to make Hill’s passion project come to life, and if that is true then I will say that it was definitely worth making… maybe learn to budget a little better though. And probably don’t release your film so soon after something you know is going to kill your movie. Just a suggestion. But I do hope this gets more love and attention, it already has garnered a lot of praise from critics and viewers who have gotten a chance to see the movie. So do yourself a favor and take a ride back in time for some fun nostalgia in the Mid90s.
6. Assassination Nation
[ESTIMATED] 7 Million Dollars
2.5 Million Dollars
Assassination Nation was a film that filled me with anxiety from start to finish, and I actually mean that in a good way. From the filmmaking to the themes within its writing showing a pretty dark reflection to our harsh reality as we a society hold such terrible double standards and anger towards certain topics, yet justify them when those topics suit our own desires and beliefs; whether it be sex, drugs, violence, homosexuality, etc. the people of America always has an excuse as to why it’s ‘okay’ in one situation, but are quick to attack it in another with little to no reason as to why. The film also works in those themes and ideas into some pretty suspenseful sequences throughout and my heart was beating a little faster as the world that I’m witnessing inside of Assassination Nation didn’t appear all that far off from our own. In this ‘Trump’ era America we are living in today, it really does feel like we’re just a stone’s throw away from the events in this movie actually happening in suburbia. Which is really sad and freaks me out quite honestly seeing how we as a people are in such a fragile state, that one simple wrong move I feel could cause mass chaos such as this.
I believe there are things about Assassination Nation that are important for us to realize, that we do hold an alarming amount of double standards as we cheer for violence in one scenario and are repulsed by it in another. The same thing goes for sex and drug use. I also liked how Assassination Nation even acknowledges the stubbornness that people will have when logic is introduced into a conversation about these sorts of topics if it goes against what they already believe in and no matter how much of what you’re saying may make sense, it will not matter to the opposing party as they will always seem to find an excuse as to why you’re wrong. Whether they bring up your age, or resort to “it’s just different”, there’s always an excuse as to why they aren’t wrong but you are. I won’t go far as to say that this is a perfect film, as the climax in the third act left a lot to be desired after such a large buildup with a relatively minimal payoff. But I’d say that it is still well worth checking out for its social commentary and hypnotic filmmaking.
It is a shame as to why this didn’t receive much at the box office, but seeing what the subject material is and how our society is today, I get why that happened. A large sum of us don’t want to have that mirror shown to us, don’t want to see hyper-violence involving teenagers, don’t want to have what we think challenged. So it gets a fairly limited release and it basically becomes lost in the shuffle among the large waves of other movies surrounding it. I hope that Assassination Nation is discovered more among the masses, I can easily see this turning into a bit of a cult classic down the line in the same vein as something like Over the Edge. An ‘us’ versus ‘them’ tale where youth and adults are mixed up in a boiling pot that only gets hotter as a wedge is forced between the two, culminating in a whole town gone mad. If you think you can handle the heat, check out this kitchen! (I’m sorry)
Assassination Nation on Amazon Prime Video
5. Solo: A Star Wars Story
275 Million Dollars
392.9 Million Dollars
Why, God?! Oh why was Solo a box office bomb!! I’m kidding. Clearly, Solo: A Star Wars Story out of all the picks here is the most financially successful by a long shot. To the point where I’m sure anyone who even bothered reading this is not taking my list seriously anymore, and I wouldn’t blame you if that is the case. But this makes the list for me because this was absolutely trashed by everyone that saw it. I mean, I may have been one in ten people in the country that didn’t try asking for their money back after seeing Solo. It was that hated among the Star Wars fans and even a large amount of critics, almost all agreeing that it is nothing more than a cash grab and it was a story that was completely unnecessary to have been made. And in some aspects I agree. Was Solo a cash grab? Of course. Was it unnecessary to make a Han Solo prequel? Sure. Was this as bad as everyone claimed it to be? God, no. Solo is a lot of fun with an old western heist vibe plot set in a sci-fi world, characters that are all colorful and engaging to watch, villains that are over-the-top in joyful ways, effects work that is really solid, and the pacing always kept up its momentum.
I don’t get the sheer hatred towards Solo, I really don’t. I thought it was a total blast. From the trailers I would say that I wasn’t entirely sold on the film, I know for a fact that the rest of the country wasn’t as it was bashed for even existing. So when the movie was finally released, I think that a large demographic went in wanting to hate Solo and so that’s exactly what they did. They hated the movie and wanted a reason to be angry. Claiming that Disney has ruined the Star Wars name, that this film was the worst Star Wars movie ever made and it’s “even worse than The Last Jedi”. Alright, slow your role you spoiled brats. Need I remind you the famous line “I hate sand. It’s coarse, rough, irritating. And it gets everywhere”. And let us not get started on the Star Wars Holiday Special! Don’t talk to me about how Solo is the worst affiliated Star Wars product ever made. Good luck with that argument. Look, just because a film is initially produced to be a cash grab that does not immediately make it a bad product. It can still manage to be entertaining if given the right writers, directors, and actors. In my opinion, that’s exactly what Solo did. It is wildly entertaining, so give your whiny privilege a break and just enjoy Solo for what it is; a fun time… also, I’m not going to lie… I liked Solo so much better than Rogue One. I know, blasphemy! But whatever, come at me!
Solo: A Star Wars Story on Amazon Prime Video
1.2 Million Dollars
4.9 Million Dollars
While everyone in the country seems to be raving nonstop about Green Book being one of the greatest films of 2018, I personally gravitated far more towards Blindspotting. Both stories dealing with a friendship formed between men of two different races that have to learn to either set aside their differences in order to persevere together or realize they may have to part ways. I thought that Blindspotting delved into that premise along with other hard hitting themes of regret, PTSD, fear, and overall race relations of today in a far more insightful and original way than Green Book ever did. Don’t get me wrong, Green Book is a fine movie, but Blindspotting is the true unique and clever game changer. It doesn’t play anything about its story or characters safe, it takes risks and executes them in creative ways. The drama is powerful as it is easy to be heavily charmed by the two leads and their amazing chemistry together. And the narrative never shies away from how terrible our society can be while also being sure to show its humanity as well, not simply painting a two-dimensional picture for anyone, always including dimensionality to every character. Even the ones we might hate. All these reasons are probably why this only played in 500 theaters upon its theatrical release; while the safer bets such as Equalizer 2, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, and Unfriended: Dark Web played in anywhere between 1,500 to over 3,000 theaters. Not only that, but the fact that there was practically zero advertising for Blindspotting at all definitely doesn’t help much either, at least I didn’t see any marketing for it. Then eventually it was quietly released on home video and luckily gathered up a little bit of a small cult following and has only spread since. But why does it have to be that way? Why is it that the far more interesting and original film barely gets a ten watt light bulb as a spotlight while something like Green Book seems to get a whole stadium to shine a light on it? I don’t get why we have to dig for something challenging to the point where barely anyone has really heard of it, but the safe and generic options are always right there for us? I don’t know. It seems unfair to the works of art that work hard and get buried and the ones that are run of the mill are celebrated. Oh well, if you get the chance, I’d say that this is worth supporting for sure!
Blindspotting on Amazon Video Prime
[ESTIMATED] 5 Million Dollars
16.6 Million Dollars
If anyone who is reading this has seen my ‘Best of 2018’ film list then they already know how much I adore Upgrade as I placed it as my number one favorite of the year. But in all good consciousness could not do it again here seeing how the film appears to be gaining somewhat of an audience that love it as well and has even resulted in writer/director Leigh Whannell now becoming the leading force behind rebooting The Invisible Man and Escape From New York. Plus with its initial release, it did make a profit. That being said, it doesn’t change the fact that Upgrade did not profit nearly as well as it should have. Which is somewhat odd since its opening weekend held what seemed to be pretty stale competition between Action Point and Adrift, yet somehow was defeated by Adrift by a large margin. As far as I could tell, prior to their release, there was no hype for Adrift while Upgrade garnered loads of anticipation among movie lovers. Not only that, but from the advertising and the movie itself, Upgrade came across as the far superior version of last year’s Venom. Everyone was pretty much on the same page in that opinion, but while Upgrade fed on the scraps of its release, Venom somehow earned over 855 million dollars worldwide. Even though everyone on the internet was on the hate train with Venom and seemingly beyond ecstatic for Upgrade, everyone went to see Venom instead and still hated it. I for one didn’t hate Venom, I found it relatively fun, but that doesn’t take away that Upgrade still remains the superior version of this story. Smarter, funnier, more ambitious action, and has a far more bold ending; Upgrade shines in every way that Venom seems to lack in. I don’t know what it is, but it’s like the world is way more willing to pay for something they want to hate rather than something that deserves their money. It’s not like Upgrade was unheard of in any way either, with promotional work scattered throughout the entirety of the internet and in front of several movie screenings, so word was out there for Upgrade and even was given the best opportunity to prosper at the box office yet… everyone decided they wanted to see Shailene Woodley float around aimlessly on a wrecked boat for a couple hours instead? Really? Granted, in all honesty, Adrift wasn’t all that bad, but compared to Upgrade… you’ve got to be out of your god damn mind! So do yourselves a favor and see Upgrade at your earliest convenience, I promise you that it is worth the watch!
Upgrade on Amazon Prime Video
2. The Night Comes For Us
Netflix Streaming Release
This pick is a little bit different, seeing how this was only released onto Netflix and never received a theatrical release outside of a few film festivals. But to me, that kind of is a disservice to The Night Comes For Us, as it was nonchalantly thrown on Netflix with barely any mention of its existence feels wrong. Especially since the movie’s action sequences are some of the most intense, bloody, and terrifyingly gory action I have seen in a very long time. There are some brilliantly inspired moments in the gore effects that put even The Raid films to shame, that is how insanely intense these fight/gunfire scenes are made and it is pretty incredible. I seriously thought I was going to have a heart attack from the amount of suspense and thrilling enthusiasm I felt as I watched dozens of these people practically ripping each other apart in every fight. I’m not even exaggerating, there are scenes where people are lucky to have one limb left attached after a fight goes down. It takes a few minutes for the pacing to kick in, but once it does it refuses to stop for two hours straight. After it was all over, I thought I just got my own ass kicked, it was that brutal and I loved every minute of it. Yes, it has problems in terms of character motivation and the narrative does become rather convoluted somewhat, but I didn’t care. It was awesome to experience this ass kicking of a ride. I only wish that films like this would be given way more love and respect, instead of practically keeping it a secret from the world as it quietly makes it onto streaming. Seeing how The Night Comes For Us is also mostly subtitled, I doubt it will get much recognition from any large demographics in my country… because reading is hard… Seriously though, I would have loved if this film had at least received some sort of limited release in theaters. Sadly, Netflix purchased the distribution rights and straight to the site it went without much of an attempt to bring it attention from their subscribers. Maybe one day it’ll get more attention, but this will probably be the closest to a Raid 3 that I’ll ever get.
1. Boy Erased
[ESTIMATED] 15 Million Dollars
7.9 Million Dollars
Boy Erased is one of the best films that came out all year and I sadly didn’t even see it until after I made my ‘Best of 2018’ movie list, if I had, this would have probably made it in my top five. But the thing is, I barely heard about Boy Erased, once or twice maybe. And when I did hear about the movie, it was extremely minimal information to the point where I didn’t even know that this was directed by Joel Edgerton; which actually irritates me since I was a major fan of his directorial debut in 2015 with The Gift. Edgerton proved himself a force to be reckoned with behind the camera, with slow burning suspense and a remarkable sense of tone, I was excited to see what his next directing venture would be. Wouldn’t you know it? It’s something that was squeezed into less than 700 theaters and didn’t even have a chance at success. Not only did this have NO marketing, it was released the same weekend as Creed II, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Robin Hood. Boy Erased was screwed. Why did this have such little faith from its producers and distributors? Edgerton proved with his first directed film that he can make a huge splash at the box office with a very small budget, so what happened in his second go around? Why was this shafted so hard?
In all honesty, the only reason I can come up with is possibly because of its subject matter? Boy Erased is a drama based off of the true events of when a teenage boy was forced into a gay conversion therapy program by his mother and Baptist preacher father. Revealing some of the disturbing and terrible things that these programs subjected youths to in order to “be straight”. It is quite heartbreaking and scary to think that so many Americans allowed this to happen to their children, and actually still do to this day. The psychological torment that they put teenagers through is simply atrocious. But unfortunately, because of the premise, I feel that maybe distributors feared that this film may come across as anti-Christianity and resorted to kind of pulling the plug on its release a bit. After seeing the film, I could see how someone who is being ignorant and aggressively does not support homosexuality would find Boy Erased to be an anti-Christian film. Even though I would personally say that this film doesn’t have a harsh word to say about Christianity at all. If anything, the movie holds an extremely Christian moral at its core, which is love and acceptance. The only thing that this film declares a problem with is when people use Christianity as a way to psychologically attack others in order to make them feel disgusting, unworthy of love, and pure evil according to their religion. That is what Boy Erased speaks against, not Christianity. Granted, I don’t know this to be the fact in the slightest as to why it was given such a limited release. For all I know there was just no money in the budget for a wider release and advertising so it fell the wayside. Who knows.
Boy Erased I would still say is an important film and needs to be seen by many to understand that some of these conversion programs can practically become concentration camps that can take hostage a young person’s whole life, in some cases even end it. Is that every conversion program? I wouldn’t know, but I doubt it. However, the ones that do prey on the weak to make them feel inferior because they aren’t straight is plain wrong. No question. And there needs to be something done about this. There are still dozens of states today that allow minors to be ‘converted’ within these programs and that is sick to me. Boy Erased has the balls to say that there is something going on in our country today which needs to be changed because it is a danger to several lives. And it delivers this message while supplying an emotionally captivating story that never feels forced in any way, every point in the story and everyone’s character feels completely natural. There aren’t even any real antagonists in the film as everything is played realistically and believable with every character written with clear motivation as to why they do the things they do. Even the character of the father who declares that he is entirely against homosexuality and sees it as a sin, you still understand his standpoint on the matter and he never comes across as some two-dimensional cartoon baddie. He feels like a real guy that was simply brought up in certain beliefs and with religion being a major part of his life, it is difficult for him to accept that his son is gay. Someone may not agree with his actions, I certainly don’t, but I understood as to why he did the things he did and he never became a villain of any sort. Same goes for the people that worked in the program to convert homosexuals. No one ever becomes a madman and tries killing anyone. Their intentions aren’t even villainous necessarily, but the actions in which they chose to handle these programs were morally wrong.
Edgerton as writer and director uses smart character development and subtlety in order to get his point across, which is something that Pure Flix can learn a thing or two about. That is probably the best way I can describe Boy Erased, it is the anit-Pure Flix film; a story that deals heavily with persecution and Christianity, only with a Pure Flix movie there would have been no real conversations between characters and the conversion program workers probably would have been painted as the heroes honestly. I could even see Pure Flix making a movie like this where the whole premise is reversed as the conversion program is being persecuted only because they’re Christians, if they haven’t already made that movie then I’m sure they will. Seriously though, this is by far the most underrated and unappreciated film released out of 2018 and I only wish I had seen it sooner. I am an idiot and I will be kicking myself for this for many years to come. Hopefully this makes up for my mistake a little bit. If Boy Erased sounds like something you’d be interested in then please, please, please see it. Seek this one out. It really is great and puts a lot of care into its craft while providing a moral that we could all learn a little from.
Boy Erased on Amazon Prime Video
That’s All Folks…
Well, that’s the end of my very long winded rant. I apologize for the length, but I feel that some of these films were important to spotlight so I was determined. Did you enjoy my list? Were there others that I missed that you believe truly deserves to be seen? Am I an idiot? Comment down below and let me know! And if you did enjoy my thoughts here then please do me a little favor and share this article around the social media world as that would greatly help me out. I would be forever grateful. Thank you for reading and have a pleasant day!
© 2019 John Plocar