Movie Recap – Best and Worst of 2018


Midway through the year I ended up joining AMC’s A List. That’s the program where you pay a flat fee each month and can see up to 3 movies a week. I’d been debating myself most of the summer if it was worth it. So far, it has, but I’m not sure how it will work moving forward as I return to more writing and less movies. It also depends on the movie releases in 2019. (You break even if you see 1 dolby movie or two of almost anything else in a month.) Unless you’re not terribly picky, it’s kind of hard to find 3 movies a week you’d want to see. Personally, I rewatch really good movies, but I only managed to see 3 movies 1 week so far.

Saw about 40 movies this year.

*Top picks after ads.

What I saw in 2018:

(This is what I have ticket stubs for or AMC’s app could tell me. The ratings might have changed since I actually reviewed them because I’m going from memory. Incidentally, how well I liked something is actually subject to change over time. Guess this is more a “what is my feeling this moment” rating.)

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle 4/5 stars (1/1/2018)

I remembered liking the original Jumanji movie when I was a kid, so I gave this one a shot. It turned out surprisingly entertaining. Didn’t watch it again, but if it happened to be on TV, I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

The Last Jedi 4/5 stars (2/8/2018)

One thing a body learns being a Star Wars fan is that you’re not obligated to like every single one of the movies. They’ve definitely turned out some bombs. Still, I saw this multiple times, and I would see it again. It’s not ever going to make it as my absolute favorite Star Wars movie. I never was a fan of the middle story in a trilogy anyway. They’re always terribly dark. The end of next year should launch the conclusion to the trilogy, so I guess it’s all good.

Black Panther 4/5 stars (2/23/2018)

Enjoyable movie typical of the Marvel universe. It had plenty of action and a decent sprinkling of humor throughout.

Tomb Raider 4/5 stars (3/16/2018)

This reboot definitely follows more of the video game than the old school Tomb Raider stories, but both are nice prequel setups. The first game in the reboot series was absolutely fantastic. I remember playing it quite a few times. The only thing I didn’t do was finish all those silly shoot the target achievements. Anyway, it looks like that poor actress did a heck of a lot of work for that movie and it showed, big time.

Ready Player One 4/5 stars (3/29/2018)

Starting to think that my secret to enjoying movies is not really knowing the source material it comes from. I didn’t particularly like the main character in Ready Player One, but it’s an interesting world with some cool special effects. Reminded me a lot of Tron. A potential issue the story had was lack of stakes. Sure, the big, bad company’s after the kid, but what’s the impact for the rest of the world. A big company would have just as much motivation to keep things running smoothly for the mindless masses as a kid fighting for freedom on the Oasis.

Avengers: Infinity War 4/5 stars (4/27/2018; 5/4/2018)

Despite it’s infuriating lack of closure, Infinity War brought high stakes to new heights. It’s pretty much part one of its story arc because you know another movie’s coming. One of my friends really, really, really hated it, but I’m in the “eh, that’s a cheap trick, you studio meanies” category. I ended up seeing it several times as people could make it.

Solo 4/5 stars (5/24/2018; 5/25/2018)

Saw an early screening that was part of a fundraiser for my school. Then, I saw it the next day as well, as planned. That concludes the number of times I saw the movie. Although a decent film, it didn’t have a lot of sticking power. If it hadn’t been labeled Star Wars and used the familiar enemies and such, it could have been any middling scifi flick. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t motivated to see it endlessly.

Incredibles 2 4.5/5 stars (~7/3/2018; 6/15/2018)

Despite them having one of those stupid “thanks for coming to see the movie” messages at the beginning, I enjoyed the movie. Why can’t they save that junk for the blu-ray/dvd extra section? My favorite part is still the baby’s fight with he racoon. Pretty sure I saw this a few times.

Ant-Man and the Wasp 4/5 stars (7/17/2018)

I can’t remember if I saw this more than once. I think so. It had good action, but in hindsight, I don’t think the main characters had much chemistry. Heroes don’t necessarily have glamorous lives.

Christopher Robin 3.5/5 stars (8/3/2018)

Enjoyable but forgettable. I like Ewan McGreggor and Haley Atwell. She’s better in Agent Carter, but that’s besides the point. The story is sweet, but it’s kind of like adults trying to cling desperately to their childhood dreams and cash in on a stagnant franchise.

Mission Impossible: Fallout 4.5/5 stars (8/4/2018; 8/7/2018;)

I’m not even a huge fan of the franchise, but this movie turned out swell. As usual, it’s a non-stop, the world’s gonna-end-if-we-don’t-stop-this kind of tale. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is running over buildings and jumping off them as expected. The chase scene with the helicopters (last 1/5 of the movie) is intense and crazy.

The Meg 4.5/5 stars (8/14/2018)

Jason Stratham typically plays tough guy characters. This round that’s not much different, though there are less guns involved, more swimming. A giant company is exploring the depths of the ocean and accidentally releases a megaladon (really big shark). It wrecks havoc on the heroes.

Blackklansman 4/5 stars (8/28/2018)

Glad I saw this one, but it’s not exactly my usual movie fare. I like Adam Driver who plays a supporting character. Seems there was a whole rash of “based on a true story” movies this year, though that could simply be me finally paying attention to such things. I’d never have seen this without A-List because I just wouldn’t have bothered to pay to see it.

Crazy Rich Asians 4.5/5 (8/30/2018)

Another surprisingly enjoyable movie. One of my friends wanted to see it, and a group of my friends wanted to try a new dine-in theater. The theater experience turned out to be just okay because they needed a better variety of food, but I’m glad we went. Romantic Comedies aren’t typically my thing, but it was worth watching. Not sure I’d ever go out of my way to read the books.

Peppermint 3.5/5 stars (~9/10/2018)

Woman on a revenge spree. Jennifer Garner (I think) takes on the role of a mother playing avenging angel. Typical everything-must-die thriller.

A Simple Favor 4/5 stars (~9/12/2018)

Creepy mystery, though not a murder mystery per se … more of a twisty friendship gone weird thing.

The House With a Clock in Its Walls 3.5/5 (~9/19/2018)

One of the stupidest titles for a movie I’ve ever seen, but it was okay. A mindless Halloween kiddie movie.

Smallfoot 4/5 (~9/26/2018 – lost stub)

Has one of the catchiest songs.

Venom 4/5 stars (~9/30/2018 – lost the stub somewhere)

Dark but fun.

Night School 3.5/5 stars (~9/30/2018 – can’t find the stub)

Fun for a weird comedy.

Bad Times at the El Royale (~10/17/2018)

I was entertained, but this is the kind of movie that makes you feel like you knocked yourself unconscious and had a weird dream.

Hunter Killer 5/5 stars (10/29/2018)

If you’ve kept up with my reviews this year or even just within this post, you’ll know that I don’t just hand out 5’s like candy. It takes a lot to move me beyond 4 stars. It’s a simple must-stop-x-to-prevent-the-world-from-blowing-up story that’s terrifyingly plausible. Gerard Butler plays a submarine captain who’s tasked with finding out what’s going on deep in the waters near Russia.

The Nutcracker 3/5 stars (11/2/2018)

Reminded me a lot of the “new” style Willy Wonka. Had a lot of garish colors and weirdo characters. Pretty sure that’s what it was meant to have, but maybe I’m just old. I was bored. I’m generally cool with most movies, but I can’t help feeling this one just wasted part of my life.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web 4/5 stars (11/7/2018)

Still haven’t seen the rest of the movies in the series or read the books. That might have helped with me figuring out who’s who and what’s what, but the movie’s enjoyable alone. There’s part at the end with a house set in the middle of nowhere that involves some very cool tech.

Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch 3/5 stars (11/9/2018)

Love Benedict Cumberbatch, but he’s so much better as Sherlock Holmes. I’m only marginally familiar with the story of the Grinch. Still, it’s a fairly forgettable movie.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald 4/5 stars (11/19/2018)

A fun movie set in the world of Harry Potter, but besides the main character and possibly one of the newbies, it’s like they worked very, very hard to get certain characters in (Jacob) just to tie it to the first movie and call it a sequel. Also, besides the cool fight scene at the end, there’s really not much going on. It’s essentially the middle story of however many they can justify making, so there’s a decided lack of closure.

Robin Hood 4/5 stars (11/21/2018; 11/26/2018)

New take on an old tale. I saw this several times with different friends. It’s a fun genre breaking fantasy story. The costuming felt decidedly modern. The dude who played Krennic in Rogue One essentially plays the same character here as the Sherriff of Nottingham.

Ralph Breaks the Internet 4.5/5 stars (11/21/2018)

Great sequel, and yes, they did a horrific “thanks for watching the movie” thing. This time, it was even longer and more painful than others because they were pretending to be on voice group chat. Besides that, the movie itself was a lot of fun. It’s a great depiction of the internet.

Widows 3.5/5 stars (11/28/2018)

Intriguing heist thriller, though it’s technically not really about the heist itself. It’s about the characters. It’s a rather complicated tale. Satisfying to see once, but not worth it in the long run.

Instant Family 4/5 stars (12/4/2018)

This might be the most surprising in terms of me actually enjoying it. The story focuses on a couple who decides to liven up their lives by becoming foster parents to 3 kids, a teenager and two elementary school aged kids.

Creed II 4/5 stars (12/7/2018)

Don’t typically watch sports movies. They generally end the same, but all the side stuff about his struggles helped balance things out. Creed is on top of the world but gets challenged by the son of the guy who killed his father in the ring ages ago. It would have been so much more satisfying if one of them could have punched out that idiot promoter. He was such a slimeball.

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse 3.5/5 stars (12/13/2018)

This is the type of movie that will continue to drop in stars if I think about it. It doesn’t make much sense, but then again, it’s based off a super hero so the unexplainable is sort of a given. I liked Miles Morales’s story, but the animation was a little hard to watch. They messed with the frame rate to make it more like a comic book. The end fight was like watching a nightmare fight (direction didn’t matter).

Mortal Engines 4/5 stars (12/14/2018)

Not sure why people keep making YA series into movies. While it turned out decently, I think it’s like the gold rush. Everybody’s hoping to recreate the giant success of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games (maybe even Divergent or The Maze Runner series, though I haven’t seen or read either of those). They come close but there’s so much in the books that it’s hard to adapt. I’ve not read the books so it didn’t bother me. The movie had some stellar and beautiful landscapes, but the story seemed convenient.

Green Book 4/5 stars (12/17/2018)

Not really about the story. Very much about the characters. It’s another “based on a true story” deals. An Italian guy and a world-class black pianist travel the deep South in the 1960’s. Racial tensions are still high, but in a different way than today.

Aquaman 4/5 stars (12/20/2018)

A genre-hopping wonderful hot mess of a movie. I had a great time and would definitely see it again. Jason Momoa is an excellent choice to play the title character. The guy who really wants revenge on him seemed like an annoying gnat of a character, but I think he means more to those who read the comic books.

Bumblebee 4/5 stars (12/21/2018)

Never saw the rest of the Transformer movies. Although a good movie, I doubt this would tempt me to see the rest of them. They spent a lot of time building Charlie’s backstory. While I liked her as a character, her longevity for the franchise is pretty much nil, so it seems a wasted investment of screentime.


Great year for movies. Lots of intriguing tales of adventure. I’m still drawn to action/thriller or Disney type animated family safe types.

Associate links to follow…

(If you click through and buy something, there’s the chance I’ll earn like $0.04 ….)

Amazon Prime

The Collins Case – 2 FBI agents track down a kidnapped family. Kid friendly.

If fantasy’s more your thing, go Redeemer Chronicles. The first, Awakening, is available as an audiobook.

Ashlynn’s Dreams Shorts – a kid deals with her parents’ divorce, bullies, and the wonder of discovery.

Try The Dark Side of Science – Genetically altered kids fight for the right to live.


Top Picks of 2018:

  • Incredibles 2 – family/ animated; funniest scene (Jack Jack vs the Racoon)
  • Mission Impossible: Fallout – action/thriller; top thriller
  • Ralph Breaks the internet – family/animated; fun film
  • Instant Family – family/drama; most surprising that I liked it
  • Nutcraker and Grinch – tie for worst movie I saw this year
  • Hunter Killer – favorite movie of the year
  • Smallfoot – one of the best new songs
  • Bumblebee – best overall soundtrack

Audiobook Reviews 3.45/5: Baby Blues: Escape from Reality by Rita Delude


A pair of high school graduates ends up pregnant. The rich mother of the young lady wants her to abort, but they want to keep it. The girl (totally forget her name) gets a job in a small town crafts store. The boy goes off to college because he has a football scholarship, but he visits every weekend.

The other main couple is older, more established but they are having repeated pregnancy issues.

 Additional Comments:

  • I probably would have enjoyed this more if I didn’t think the two kids were idiots 99% of the book.
  • The characterization is like oh, she’s such a smart, sweet girl. Repeatedly.
  • Narrator’s performance was good. She put great emotion into all the right places.
  • I liked the older couple more. There were a few side characters who were interesting but they blended together. One was a neonatal nurse or something.
  • Characters 2/5: The younger couple is so dumb it hurts. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing because it’s accurate to some people or a bad thing. They’re not even likable for most of the book. The last chapter where everything comes together is great. I even like the characters then when they started making semi-sensible decisions.
  • Subtitle of Escape from Reality doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
  • Plot 3/5: Nothing earth-shattering.
  • End 4/5: 100% predictable yet satisfying.
  • Content Warnings: some cursing, including one f-bomb. Some talk about sex.


There’s definite improvement as the book continues. I liked the end. I just don’t know if the rest of the book was worth wading through to get there.

Associate links to follow…

(If you click through and buy something, there’s the chance I’ll earn like $0.04 ….)

Amazon Prime

The Collins Case – 2 FBI agents track down a kidnapped family. Kid friendly.

If fantasy’s more your thing, go Redeemer Chronicles. The first, Awakening, is available as an audiobook.

Ashlynn’s Dreams Shorts – a kid deals with her parents’ divorce, bullies, and the wonder of discovery.

Try The Dark Side of Science – Genetically altered kids fight for the right to live.


Movie Reviews 4/5 Stars: Instant Family

*Spoiler Section After Ads

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Margo Martindale (I love her), Isabela Moner, Tig Notaro, Olivia Spencer (Love her too), and many more

4/5 Surprisingly Touching Family Story


A husband and wife consider adopting through the foster system because they want to shake up the monotony of their lives. They take an 8-week course and go to a fair where they can meet and greet some of the kids in the foster system. They talk themselves into and out of the situation several times, but finally, doubts from their family pushes them to take the leap. They’re interested in a teenager who just happens to come with two younger siblings.

Additional Comments:

  • I’m not a huge Mark Wahlberg fan because a lot of them are truly ridiculous, but this one turned out fine.
  • The trailer made the movie seem like it would be funnier than it was.
  • Like anything truly to do with family, this movie took turns being charming, frustrating, amusing, and heartwarming.
  • It’s not an easy road to walk. Kids from troubled homes have all the normal kid problems plus a few dozen more unique to those in the system.
  • Characters: I don’t remember much about the kids’ names, except that the teenager went by Lizzy. Can’t even remember the parents’ names. I do remember Grandmother Sandy.
  • Drama: The filmmakers did a nice job catching a good variety of sweet and hellish moments with the kids.


Worth watching. Don’t think it’s a movie that really encourages people to go out and enter foster classes, but it’s a worthwhile tale. Would be good to watch alone, with friends, or with family.


Associate links to follow…

(If you click through and buy something, there’s the chance I’ll earn like $0.04 ….)

Amazon Prime

The Collins Case – 2 FBI agents track down a kidnapped family. Kid friendly.

If fantasy’s more your thing, go Redeemer Chronicles. The first, Awakening, is available as an audiobook.

Ashlynn’s Dreams Shorts – a kid deals with her parents’ divorce, bullies, and the wonder of discovery.

Try The Dark Side of Science – Genetically altered kids fight for the right to live.


Spoiler Section:

  • Favorite Moment: When Grandmother Sandy tells them plainly that their court speech stinks, and they need to rewrite it pronto.
  • Sometimes, I wonder how much of the “based on a true story” part is true. There are certain things these people say and do, like punching out the janitor or being slapped by the people they went to for help, holds truth. A lot of what they said, especially in confronting the high school kid they thought had sent lewd pictures to the teenage girl, seemed highly inappropriate in and of itself.

Audiobook Reviews 4/5 Stars: Written in Blood by Rebecca Deel



Typical Romantic Suspense

(I’ll try to keep this relatively spoiler free.)

Narration provided by Kristina Fuller Yuen


Megan Cahill is a news editor who happens to be in the dark park to meet her friend when that friend is murdered. The killer knocks her cold, giving the lady nightmares. So, of course, she provokes him at every turn, daring him to capture or kill her. I know it’s fiction, but the way the murder went down isn’t very realistic. It would have been more realistic if the killer had tried to off Megan in the beginning and simply failed instead of letting her live.

Additional Comments:

– It’s a 3 star story with nice narration. The characters are distinguishable. The editing’s pretty smooth.
– Plot 3.5/5: There are some events that have nothing to do with the murder mystery, which I appreciated. Despite the lack of a true twist and an end sequence worthy of a low budget movie, complete with cheesy confrontation between the villain(s) and our heroes, it’s a satisfying story. Happily ever after is achieved. There is a good amount of action along the way.
– Writing Style 4/5: There’s decent flow to the work.

Main Characters 3.5/5: I like that the author tried to give the police guy a backstory that was deep and full of tragedy, but it felt forced. Megan’s spitfireness got annoying too. There’s usually a line between aggressive, bold, and stupid. I could totally see her being dumb, but then owning it and being contrite.
– Side Characters 4/5: I got a tad confused about who each of the side characters were, but they were fleshed out enough to make them feel realistic.

  • Not sure the title makes much sense to me. Or the book cover, but they fit the genre well enough.

Side note: The whole “she’s an identical triplet” thing was mentioned several times, but never really meant much. The main character confesses to being worried for her sisters, but it would have been nice if they were in it a little more. I have not read the others in the series, so I don’t really know them well enough for cameos to be sufficient.

Favorite side character: the old lady Megan hires to do some part time writing.
– It’s formula writing, but the formula works. She’s in danger. He protects her. They’re in danger. They protect each other. He’s got a painful past. She’s stubborn. They overlook each others’ flaws and fall in love. The end. Who’s ready for the next?
– Would I read/listen to another story by the same author? Sure.
– Would I listen to the same narrator? Certainly.

Second side note: If you liked this story, then you would probably like Choices Veil of Secrets (It’s an app with “free” stories, though to make all choices you’d have to buy game currency). I’ll write more about those later.
– Who would I recommend the book to? Fans of the genre. If you like romantic suspense, then you’re not going to be surprised by anything in here, but it’s a relatively fleshed out world with varied characters.


Romantic suspense fans should be pleased with this. You might get the most out of the series if you actually start from the beginning, but it’s perfectly understandable jumping right in here.

*I received a copy of the audiobook, and I chose to review it.

Associate links to follow…

(If you click through and buy something, there’s the chance I’ll earn like $0.04 … not kidding, that’s basically it.)

Amazon Prime

The Collins Case – 2 FBI agents track down a kidnapped family.

Ashlynn’s Dreams Shorts – a kid deals with her parents’ divorce, bullies, and the wonder of discovery.

Try The Dark Side of Science – Genetically altered kids fight for the right to live.