Widows poster

Rated Greg’s Revised Top 5 Movies of 2018

  1. Mission Impossible: Fallout Widows
  2. A Star Is Born Mission Impossible: Fallout
  3. Sicario: Day of the Soldado A Star Is Born
  4. A Quiet Place Sicario: Day of the Soldado
  5. First Man A Quiet Place

There’s a levity that comes with most heist thrillers.  The genre was created as an experience for sheer entertainment, an escape from a mundane reality, films that generally don’t cause for much reflection.  Think Ocean’s 11 or Fast and Furious or even last year’s Baby Driver.  You simply want to watch the heroes get rich quick while making some wisecracks along the way, but at the end of the day their world doesn’t really have anything to do with yours.

The masterpieces of this genre set themselves a part though by carrying extra weight with them.  The peak is arguably 1995’s Heat, bullets galore on the surface but at it’s heart is a story about the toll one’s profession can take on their own personal life (and about Pacino’s love of great asses).  More recently 2016’s Hell or High Water questioned the immorality of armed robbery, given dire circumstances in a forgotten part of the heartland.  It was less cops vs robbers and more the poor vs predatory banks.  Most recently we have Widows.  Like Heat and Hell or High Water, Widows is a goddamn masterpiece.


There’s a lot going on in Widows.  A lot more than the initial pitch (heist movie….. but with women) would have you suggest.  Yeah there’s a makeshift team, yeah there’s a plan, and yeah there’s a safe to crack, but there’s also some very poignant thoughts on the magnitude of corruption inherent in a modern American establishment (in this case Chicago, Illinois).  Gerrymandering, reckless police, kickbacks, nepotism, it’s likely the circle of life for many.  Although the film is based on a British TV series from the early 80’s, I thought a lot of it actually could have been influenced by The Wire.


There are SO MANY great scenes in Widows that I won’t spoil.  Really it’s just one after another from the jump.  But a non-spoiler that you should be on the lookout for is a simple conversation that Colin Farrell has in the back of a moving town car early in the movie.  The entire 2-3 minute scene is shot from the outside of the car but the audio is of the two characters out of frame, talking about nothing exactly pertinent to the plot.  At the time I thought it was a strange and cool looking scene because typically the camera would be inside the vehicle.  Only after listening to a podcast with director Steve McQueen did I realize that McQueen didn’t shoot it that way just to be cool, but he wanted to show the vast disparity between adjoining neighborhoods in a city like Chicago.  You can go from a rundown section of town directly to big, nice houses with picket fences in mere minutes/blocks.  I was focused on the conversation but I really should have been paying attention to the passing background.


Bottom line, Widows is extremely entertaining but will also make you think.  It’s equally mysterious, exhilarating, profound, and jarring, not to mention has the best pound for pound cast of the year (Viola Davis, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall, Daniel Kaluuya, Michelle Rodriguez are the people you do know. Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Bryan Tyree Henry, Carrie Coon, and Olivia the dog are the people/canines you might not know but should).  I wanted to give special recognition to Kaluuya’s performance but I think I’ll save that for the year-end wrap up.  Instead I’ll just let it be known that Widows is the heavy favorite for Rated Greg’s best movie of the year (unless Roma crashes the party, not you though Aquaman).  Grade: A+



Rated Greg’s Top 5 Family Dramas

  1. Blue Valentine
  2. Manchester by the Sea
  3. Wildlife
  4. Other People
  5. First Man*

*Before I get to Wildlife, a quick aside about First Man.  First Man vastly underperformed it’s box office projections and there’s some debate as to what actually happened.  Some think a conservative effort to boycott the movie because it didn’t feature the American flag enough in the moon landing scene hurt the turnout, but I find that hard to believe (plus that rumor about the flag being avoided in the movie is simply not true).  Personally, I don’t think it’s rocket science.  First Man failed to make back it’s budget because it was released just one week after A Star is Born and because it wasn’t quite marketed clearly.  This was part bad luck and part poor planning.  A shitload of adults saw A Star is Born the first weekend in October.  For a week straight all you heard about was how great Cooper and Gaga were, so by the next weekend another shitload of adults decided they needed to see A Star is Born to see what all the hype was about.  First Man got buried by the Star hype and the people that may have been interested in it probably forgot it was even out.  On top of that, I think most consumers heard the name Neil Armstrong and just assumed it was a space movie, a genre that I’ve discovered is widely ignored by the more mature audiences.  But here’s the thing, First Man isn’t a space movie.  It’s maybe 15% space and 85% family drama period piece.  But that wasn’t made clear in the trailer.  The audience this was intended for didn’t get the message and the space nerds also didn’t buy in because it’s about an actual person and not a space raccoon.  Adjust the trailer accordingly and release First Man over the summer, where there is less competition for mature audiences, and I’m fairly certain it makes a good deal more in returns.  The comp going in for First Man never should have been Gravity or Arrival, other space movies released in the Fall, it should have been Dunkirk, a mature PG-13 historical movie that made a ton of money in summer ’17.


Ok that was a long quick aside, but onto Wildlife….

John Krasinski (A Quiet Place). Bradley Cooper (Star is Born). Jonah Hill (Mid90’s).  The great year of the actor turned director continues with Paul Dano’s first feature film, Wildlife.  Based on the Richard Ford novel of the same name, Wildlife closes in on the life of a married couple and their 14-year old son for a period in 1960 when the state of Montana was on fire.  It’s exquisitely acted, profoundly scenic, and quite heartfelt despite the tears the characters cause each other to shed.

Wildlife - Still 1

wild8Screen Shot 2018-11-11 at 1.42.34 PMwild

Looking at the Top 4 above, the key word here is DRAMA, not to be confused with dramedy.  D-R-A-M-A.  These are not fun, Friday night movies, but that’s ok. Not everything needs to be Tom Cruise jumping out a window or cute, funny coming of age stories.  It feels good, and almost necessary, to have your deeper emotions stirred up via cinema once in awhile. Does that make me a movie masochist or does that just make me this guy?

If you try to see most of the Oscar nominated performances each year, you’re safe to go ahead and check Wildlife out at your local indie theater.  This Sundance darling will most certainly be in the mix.  I can’t say yet about Best Picture, but Carey Mulligan will definitely add another Best Actress nomination to her resume.  Paul Dano and his girlfriend/co-writer Zoe Kazan are also pretty much guaranteed to get a Best Adapted Screenplay nom.  He’s the best working actor today in my opinion, so I hope Gyllenhaal gets a Best Supporting Actor nom as well (Mulligan and the Dax Shepard looking son really are the leads here), but that’s more up in the air.  So go see Wildlife, just maybe not on a Friday night.  Grade: A+