Guy with Internet Access’ Incomplete List of 2018 Films You Need to Catch Up On Pt. 1

2018 continues to be a godsend, at least when it comes to the movies.

We’re more than halfway from the year & we have a wide variety of films that I could easily turn into a Top 10 list for 2018 & I’d walk away satisfied. From Hollywood blockbusters, Filipino romantic comedies, & arthouse hits, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. I certainly loved all of these films.

Since we’re flooded with a deluge of films this month just with the start of Cinemalaya & Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Feast of Filipno Cinema) alone – and that doesn’t even include the likes of Buybust, Christopher Robin, & Teen Titans Go to the Movies on this week alone – let’s recap what notable films released in 2018 are worth catching up on.

Let’s set up some rules. In order to be included in the list, it needs to be released before August 2018. If it’s a contender for Oscars 2018 that was only released this year, it counts as a 2017 film. More importantly, I need to have seen the films in order to be eligible. If it didn’t make the cut, it either means I missed it out on these films or I didn’t love it enough to include it in the list. (This is where I’ll admit I barely saw any films from CineFilipino & Sinag Maynila, so this list will be shorter than it should be.)

Without further ado, here is the incomplete list of 2018 films you need to catch up on, ranked in alphabetical order:

Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes (The Two Mrs. Reyes)

Two scorned women conniving to break up their respective husbands’ loving relationship for each other sounds like a nasty, horrible concept for a movie, but in the hands of Jun Robles Lana – who also made a bunch of modern queer Filipino classics like Bwakaw & Die Beautiful – it’s a beginner’s guide into understanding & embracing the LGBTQIA+ community that doubles as a hilarious, empathetic farce.

Ang Panahon ng Halimaw (Season of the Devil)

Lav Diaz’s latest film suffers from a few problems, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful or urgent. This four-hour “rock opera” set during the height of Martial Law links the current horrors we’re facing in the Duterte administration, operating as a stirring lamentation for a country vulnerable to oppression & authoritarian rule, & a rousing battle cry to fight against its continuous rise.

A Quiet Place

This debut from John Krasinski takes the idea of monsters who can only detect prey through sound & uses it as a launchpad for clever, anxiety-inducing horror, backed with a masterful sound design that makes it one of the few films that improve if seen in a movie theater. That alone is an accomplishment, but at the center of A Quiet Place is an affecting story about parents willing to do anything for their children to protect them from a post-apocalypic landscape, & their children learning to grow up & survive without them. It’s a familiar tale told through an outlandish, horrifying circumstances.

Bao

Ignore every white person who were confused & derisive about this short. Domee Shi serves up a poignant ode to overprotective parents that’s unmistakably Asian – especially to Chinese families – & delivers on Pixar’s knack of making you cry in the theater in the span of 8 minutes.

Black Panther

Diminishing Black Panther‘s cultural cachet as a result of political correctness simplifies everything that makes it great & anyone who assumes this is very likely an asshole. Sure, it is unapologetically black & deeply aware of the horrors brought by colonialism, slavery, & racism, but it’s also an entertaining Marvel superhero movie in the form of a political family drama, full of sarcastic one-liners, ruminations on what means to be good, & war rhinos. This is Marvel at its most thoughtful & delightful.

Blockers

Updating old, harmful tropes is a tricky task, but it’s one that Blockers pulls off with ease. It’s another film about parents freaking out that their daughters are interested in sex like actual human beings, but instead of propagating harmful ideas about parental codependency & female sexuality, this filthy, hilarious comedy subverts it to deliver a warm, touching story about loosening one’s grip on your child, & the terrors of butt-chugging.

Citizen Jake

As Mike de Leon’s swan song, Citizen Jake is didactic, clunky, half-baked, & surprisingly amateurish from one of the best Filipino directors, but the audacity & anger pulsing through this personal, experimental film warrants your attention. Even if his attempts to hash out vendettas left & right whether they deserve it or not – I understand his deep anger for the Marcoses but what the hell is up with that random Ambeth Ocampo aside – results in a messy, self-indulgent movie, this is still an ambitious, compelling portrait of privilege & one’s complicity within a corrupt system.

Dirty Computer

God bless Janelle Monae. Not only did she dropped one of the best albums of 2018, she accompanied it with an “emotion picture” that is as rich & diverse as its source material. It adapts the songs from Dirty Computer – which are more personal & political than she’s done before – into visually astounding music videos & frames almost all of them as her memories which are deleted one by one, in a dystopian world that tagged her as “subversive” for being different. It’s far from a downer though, as it’s a joyous defiance against a ruthless, heteronormative society that may take its cues from the current state of our world, but one that’s hopeful for the future.

Ghost Stories

The Ghost Stories in the title refer to the three unsolved paranormal cases investigated by a famous skeptic, brought to him by the skeptic he idolizes. These stories offer traditional scares, but executed with effortless skill & sophistication, resulting in an anthology film without a single clunker in its lineup. But another mystery slowly unravels amidst his investigation, and drags the audience headfirst into a twisted tale of a man whose guilt manifests itself in surprising ways.

Hereditary

A24 continues its trend of distributing innovative horror films by producing one of their own. This feature-length debut from Ari Aster is a harrowing drama about grief, mental illness & the inevitability of family trauma built on top of an unnerving, oppressive horror film, where every scene drips with unescapeable tension & a simple cluck can horrify an audience. It also has one of the best acting ensembles of 2018, led by Toni Collette as a woman trying to keep herself from falling apart under unusual, horrible circunstances & failing to doing so.

The Incredibles 2

I don’t think The Incredibles 2 was able to outdo its predecessor. How can you even top a masterpiece? That doesn’t mean it wasn’t close. It might be burdened by a ton of ideas about superheroism that make it messy, but the ambition to probe its own genre continues to be enthralling & at combining it with a grounded story about the hardships of coparenting makes it even sweeter. Not to mention Brad Bird’s knack for creating thrilling action sequences with wit & clarity is on full display here, as best exemplified by Elastigirl’s frentic chase narrowly twisting & turning into the metropolis to stop a runaway train while she rides a motorcycle that can split up in half to accomodate her powers.

Isle of Dogs

Accusations of cultural appropriation & its usage of a white savior aren’t completely unfounded, & yet to say that it completely tanks the film is misguided either. Wes Anderson creates one of the most frustrating films of the year, where he pushes his usual preoccupations to newer heights by telling a fable about creeping fascism & oppression through the eyes of his beloved animals in gorgeous detail that shows his deep love & reverence for Japanese arts & culture, while once again revealing his lack of cultural sensitivities with his shallow interpretation of Japan that often veers into noxious Japanese stereotypes without meaning to. This distracts, yet rarely detracts, one of Wes Anderson’s most entertaining films in recent years.

Journeyman Finds Home: The Simone Rota Story

This is the only feature-length entry I’ve seen in Sinag Maynila 2018, & I’m lucky it’s this one. This inspiring documentary details the life of Simone Rota, an orphan adopted by an Italian couple in the Philippines who raised him in their home country & how his love of football put him on track back to his homeland as a member of the Philippines’ national football team. Now that he’s here, he decides to search for his biological parents while giving back to the community. It’s a rousing sports doc that gently builds into a tale of gratitude & acceptance about one’s place in the world & how to better it in your own way.

Love, Simon

We should be thankful that Love, Simon was not only adapted into a movie, but also backed by a major Hollywood studio – farewell 20th Century Fox – and distributed all over the world. That’s because it focuses on a closeted gay teen trying not to be outed by his blackmailer in this heartfelt coming-of-age film. That may seems like something out of a thriller, and it often plays as such, but it’s also warm, compassionate look at the importance of “coming out” to members of the LGBTQIA+ community & the repercussions of doing so, whether good or bad. Hopefully, someone who hasn’t come out yet gets to watch it for a chance to exhale, if only for a bit.

Magbuwag Ta Kay (Let’s Break Up, Kay)

One of the biggest bummers of 2018, besides everything else, is Magbuwag Ta Kay disappearing in cinemas after one week of its limited release. It’s not even showing in microcinemas anymore. It’s a shame, because this delightful Cebuano romantic comedy about a couple deciding to break up when one of them is emmigrating overseas inverts the established tropes of the current romantic comedies obsessed with kilig & hugot, affirming that there’s more to life than romantic love.

Meet Me in St. Gallen

Irene Villamor directed her first film on her own with the critically acclaimed Camp Sawi (Camp for the Broken-hearted) in 2017 – which sadly I still haven’t caught yet – but this year proved she’s a voice worth following by releasing two films about bittersweet romances that invigorate the genre with only a few months apart. The first of these movies is Meet Me in St. Gallen, about a chance encounter between two dreamers who find solace in each other for one night that turns into a meditation on missed opportunities & the inevitability of regret caused by the compromises we made, regardless of whether we did out for our own good.

Mr. & Mrs. Cruz

The latest film from Sigrid Andrea Barretto (Lorna, Kita-Kita) came & left the theaters without any buzz. Unlike Magbuwag Ta Kay, few microcinemas & legal streaming sites have picked up the slack from dooming this lovely film to oblivion. Pairing a cishet man & woman who never met before together on a trip to a tourist destination to find themselves after heartbreak may not be as novel as it used to be a few years ago, but not only does Mr. & Mrs. Cruz demonstrate why it’s an effective trope with her sharp, witty dialogue & excellent performances from JC Santos & Ryza Cenon, it becomes a showcase for Barretto’s knack for balancing whimsy & heartbreak – resulting in two of the most memorable scenes of the year – and gradually pushing back against the formula until it offers its own take on what a happy ending looks like.

Never Not Love You

Antoinette Jadaone’s most mature & satisfying film finds her & JaDine entering new territory. Never Not Love You starts off normally enough, with the couple instantly hitting it off, before it thrusts us into one of the best takes on choosing between love & career, where it exhibits how a relationship is a constant negotiation between helping your partner or focusing on your own growth, and whether love can survive in the process.

Paddington 2

The first Paddington surprised everyone with its delightful mix of a heartwarming story of an immigrant who just happens to be a bear finding his place in London & its unmistakably British sense of humor. Just like every great sequel, Paddington 2 expands on everything that made the first one such a warm, lovely treat & adds Hugh Grant’s inspired performance as a vain, conniving failed actor stuck doing dog commercials. For almost two hours, it’s a funny, heartfelt treatise on empathy & kindness jam-packed with humor & emotion.

Sid & Aya (Not a Love Story)

Irene Villamor’s second film this year differs from Meet Me in St. Gallen by creating a bittersweet romance out of an oft-ignored aspect in romantic comedies. A ridiculously rich stockbroker suffering from insomnia pays a plucky, hardworking woman with at least three jobs to accompany him during his sleepless nights. It sounds gimmicky, but it illustrates how the stark class divisions in the Philippines affect every aspect of our lives, including our relationships.

Sin Island

Star Cinema decided to bank on a sexually charged film as their film for Valentines’ Day & we’re treated to one of the dumbest & trashiest Filipino films in recent memory. That’s not an insult. Completely witless & predictable, Sin Island rises above these flaws for operating on pure id – admittedly built on toxic ideas about monogamy – and presenting it with the utmost style & sincerity even as it amps up the insanity, producing one of the most enjoyable films of the year.

This is America

Donald Glover’s latest single is a great song on its own, but what takes it to another level is its music video directed by Hiro Murai. Donald Glover tours us into a twisted, surreal funhouse mirror of America where he navigates us between multiple modes of blackness to reveal a nation loves to appropriate black culture while ignoring the plight of black people. It’s a compelling work that gains its power for simultaneously being confrontational & obtuse about its deeper meaning.

Unsane

Steven Soderbergh’s latest film is a grimy, violent exploitation film about exploitation. A mentally distressed woman seeks help in a behavioral center after memories of her stalker continue to haunt her. Instead, she’s once again taken into a system that doesn’t address her needs & takes advantage of her at every step of the way. Being shot with an iPhone 7 Plus amps up the claustrophobia, trapping us in the facility & her troubled mind.

Movie Review: Fun, Trashy Sin Island Just Wants to Get Your Blood Pumping

TL;DR: Sin Island may be dumb & ridiculous, but that’s only part of what makes this sexy, trashy erotic thriller so much fun.

It’s still shocking to think that Star Cinema would release Sin Island as their Valentines’ Day offering. Instead of a lighthearted romantic comedy, they decided to bankroll on something darker & sexier; it’s their first sexually charged movie since Ang Lalaki sa Buhay ni Selya (The Man in Selya’s Life) released in 1997. While we could only theorize the reasons behind this move as either influenced by the success of the Fifty Shades trilogy, an act of commendable risk-taking, losing out on a bad bet, or something else entirely, this is a laudable effort that doesn’t prepare you to how trashy it’s going to be.

David (Xian Lim) is a passionate photographer who found success shooting magazine covers & weddings. He’s married to a flight attendant named Kanika (Colleen Garcia), & both of them have a loving, passionate marriage. But when he’s forced to close his business due to his assistant’s mistake, he spirals toward despondency & loses his self-esteem that goes on for two years. Meanwhile, Kanika is becoming more attracted to Stephen (TJ Trinidad), one of the pilots she’s working with. It’s obvious that Stephen feels the same way, but it’s only physical & she never crosses the line; even if her best friend goads her about it. David figures this out & they have a huge fight. At the request of his friend, he decides to go on an exclusive resort on Sinilaban Island; or Sin Island as it’s also called. That’s where he meets Tasha (Natalie Hart), a broken-hearted swimsuit designer who decided to take a break when her husband cheated on her. Both of them had an awkward start, but once they slowly get to know each other, it sets off a series of events that will endanger his current marriage, & their lives.

sinIslandShower

Let’s circle back to the inciting incident that caused David to ruin his life. His assistant carelessly put a bag containing all of their SD cards they used for the wedding beside the fountain, which was subsequently kicked by a kid into the water while the assistant was taking a picture. They couldn’t recover any of the images in the SD cards. The client sued them for ₱ 10 million. His brother, who’s also a lawyer, tells him he has no choice but to take the deal. The incident caused him to lose all of his clients, compelling him to close his business.

The movie asks us to believe that a man like David, who runs a successful wedding photography service, did not have any emergency contingencies just in case something like this would happen. It also asks us to believe that his supposedly skilled brother couldn’t find a way to retaliate against the couple or lessen its impact on the business. Finally, it also thinks that this sole incident will cause David to lose his clients. This is just a taste of how unbelievably stupid this whole movie is going to be. It has lots of moments where people are acting like incompetent idiots so the movie can reach its next plot point, or the supporting characters encouraging the leads’ bad behavior & castigating them for following their advice to create conflict without probing the reasons behind it. It also embraces toxic monogamy culture in the way it explores a spouse’s attraction to people who aren’t their partners & the jealousy that results from it without examining the behavior nor its effects on a relationship.

sinIslandInBedWithTasha

That’s fine, since it’s the furthest thing from the movie’s mind; & the only thing it has on its mind is a pulsating id. Star Cinema & director Gino M. Santos made a melodrama focused on infidelity with flashes of camp that turns into a trashy erotic thriller, that feeds on our insatiable desire to watch conventionally attractive people with gorgeously toned bodies to fight & fuck each other out of love – often in ridiculous ways – with the high production values that’s expected from the studio. It’s a very racy film oozing with sex, violence & style, presenting it without any shame, & maximized to titillate audiences without going over the R-16 rating; which include the torrid sex scenes that spreads the pleasure & objectification to both sexes & a “cheat day” discussion with Stephen that ends with him eating a mussel while Kanika & him exchange sordid looks as David realizes what is happening. While it focuses solely on the internal struggles of David & Kanika’s marriage without blaming it on their sex life, it’s not above embracing the tropes of the genre; which are often problematic & clichéd. That’s only part of the charm, since the movie dives headfirst into it with gleeful relish.

sinIslandMirror

You can even see it from everyone in the cast. Xian Lim may be lackluster when he deals with David’s downward spiral, but he works best when he’s embracing the movie’s sleazy tone. Colleen Garcia reveals the depth of Kanika’s sadness & disappointment to David, & she gets a chance to join in the movie’s shenanigans too. But the center of the movie’s jagged, seedy heart is, well, Nathalie Hart. She is funny, charismatic, & sexy, using her charm to hide her cunning, nutty self. She will try her best to hide it, but once the facade drops, she will snarl, seduce, or strike anyone if it will help her get what she wants.

But what elevates this to something special are the stylish visuals shot by Mycko David & the spot-on production design by Aimi Geraldine R. Gamboa. The sets switch from extravagant to intimate without toning down the movie’s excesses. Mycko David spruces it up with low-key cinematography that relies on fewer light sources that often cast shadows on the actors’ faces, or backlighting the actors to turn them into silhouettes, creating a sense of mystery & danger that boils under the surface until it explodes in the third act. He also captures every knowing look, sensuous touch & deep moan within the constraints of its movie rating. It just emphasizes how much of the movie’s pleasure are skin-deep, which is fitting for a movie filled with naked bodies. While there are trashier movies out there, that doesn’t make this any less fun. It’s completely upfront to what it is & executes it with such style, it’s hard to resent it. It only wants to please your primal instincts, & if you give it a chance, there’s a chance you couldn’t resist its charms.

sinIslandGlass