Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2018

Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2018

With 2018 almost in the books, it’s time to reflect on some of the movies that stood out the most and left the biggest impact. This article focuses on my Top 10 favorite films of 2018. These are not necessarily the best films of the year, but they are the ones I enjoyed most, ones that stayed with me and I’d happily re-watch in an instant.

***Warning: This article contains light spoilers about the following films.

10. Christopher Robin

While Christopher Robin certainly follows the common trope of an overly serious adult rediscovering his inner child and the importance of family, the film also achieves a unique tone that elevates it above the tropes. This is partly accomplished through the movie’s overarching lesson. Pooh says, “Sometimes doing nothing leads to the best of something.” The movie brings this message to life by showing how Christopher Robin learns to use his imagination again and focus on the things that really matter.

In a world that constantly encourages people to keep constantly busy–never letting a moment go to waste or be unproductive–this lesson is more important than ever. The movie brims with additional seemingly simplistic, yet profound lessons. “I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been,” says Pooh, a beautiful way of capturing the importance of living in the present.

There are certainly funny moments, but also uplifting and even a couple genuinely sad moments. It’s an effective blend and surprisingly mature for a story about Winnie the Pooh characters. Some folks were highly critical of the aesthetic used for Pooh and his friends, but it actually works quite well for a live-action adaptation in a world of somewhat muted colors. Pooh and company look a bit frayed, showing that Christopher isn’t the only one who’s changed over the years. Also, Ewan McGregor is a phenomenal actor and does an excellent job of portraying Christopher Robin and his character development.

9. BlackKklansman

BlackKklansman tells an incredible true story in a way that is powerful, intense, and at certain points humorous. It it easily one of the best films directed by Spike Lee in years. John David Washington and Adam Driver quickly establish a natural dynamic. Their performances demonstrate how Driver is one of the best actors out there–nailing every facet of a character completely different than Kylo Ren–and that Washington is one of Hollywood’s brightest rising stars.

The film does a beautiful job showing how there is no hierarchy of oppression. Much of the danger presented by the Klu Klux Klan comes from their widespread violent hatred directed at so many different groups of people. Driver’s character Flip Zimmerman is forced to confront that when he realizes that even as a fairly non-religious Jew, the KKK hates his true identity just as much as they’d hate a Black man. It’s important to defend the culture and heritage of yourself and others in the face of blind and dangerous hatred.

The one overarching issue of the film is that it somewhat oversimplifies a complex narrative. Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley was at the forefront of this criticism, highlighting that it’s an oversimplified and false narrative that practically all cops are allies in the fight against racism. This is a dangerous narrative in a time where police brutality and prejudice is integral to the systematic racism that still exists.

This certainly doesn’t ruin the movie or take away from the remarkable story or outstanding acting, but it does cause it to be a little lower on this top 10 list.

8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is arguably the purest comic book movie to ever be made. The overall aesthetic and stunning animation style feels like it’s been lifted straight from the pages of a comic book. The film also brings to life many of the best Spider-Man characters and storylines to ever exist in the comics, many of which more casual audiences were unfamiliar with before seeing the movie.

While Peter Parker does play a significant role in the film, it’s a wise choice to have the story truly revolve around Miles Morales. Fans of the comics have loved this character for a while, and it’s about time he was brought to the big screen.

Kids and adults can equally enjoy this movie. A great example of this is in the film’s humor. Kids quite simply will find Spider-Ham hilarious since he’s a talking pig. Adults can find delightful humor in the fact that Spider-Man Noir is fascinated by a Rubik’s Cube because he comes from a universe where he can only see black and white.

The one downside to this approach is that there is sometimes an inconsistent tone to the movie. Slapstick humor catering to the younger audience is overdone when Miles first discovers his powers, but there’s some truly dark and mature themes concerning the backstory of Wilson Fisk and the shocking reveal of the Prowler’s identity.

While there are quite a few villains to contend with in the movie, the film also provides surprising maturity with the fact that the true antagonistic forces are the characters’ insecurities. These insecurities are more crippling to Miles and the Peter Parker from another universe than any of the actual villains they face. Their true character growth occurs when they overcome their insecurities, not when they defeat the bad guys. Even Fisk is defined by his insecurities as he fails to accept that it’s not any Spider-Man but himself who is truly responsible for the deaths of his family.

7. Ant-Man and the Wasp

In a year when the Marvel Cinematic Universe had already released the smash hits Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp was sadly overshadowed. It’s a shame because Ant-Man and the Wasp is both a superb superhero film and sequel. Hope van Dyne receives the spotlight she deserves as the Wasp.

Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd share a natural chemistry that makes all scenes between Ant-Man and Wasp a delight to watch. Their performances, the script, and so much else makes it one of the funniest MCU movies to date. There is also a tremendous amount of heart to this story, especially concerning the relationship between Scott and his daughter Cassie. Supporting characters from the first film like Cassie and Luis take on bigger roles. They make contributions to the story and feel more like fully formed characters rather than just serving as comic relief or as the source of the protagonist’s motivations.

Even though for the most part the movie tells its own story, the movie does provide some essential contributions to the larger MCU. One of these is that it makes the Sokovia Accords truly matter again for the first time since Captain America: Civil War. The post-credits scenes also offer some powerful connections as it provides the first glimpse of how the devastating end of Avengers: Infinity War affected the world beyond what fans already knew. It also set up the essential role Ant-Man will play in Avengers: Endgame.

One way in which the movie struggles is with its villains. With Killmonger, Thanos, Vulture, and many others in recent installments, the MCU has been killing it with their villains lately. This was no the case in Ant-Man and the Wasp. There is no central antagonist. They go with a few different ones, but none end up being that effective. Considering so much of the story revolved around her fate and rescue, it was also a bit of a disappointment that there wasn’t more of Janet van Dyne in the film, especially considering she was played by the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer.

6. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Without a doubt, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has many flaws. That being said, it hits the #6 spot on this list because it is still a highly enjoyable film and in certain respects further enriches the Potterverse. It’s always a delight to return to this magical world and it’s fascinating to gain further insight into in a time period and locations that haven’t received much exposure before.

Eddie Redmayne continues to nail his nuanced performance as Newt Scamander, an unconventional and refreshing protagonist. He has wonderful chemistry with some of his cast mates, particularly Dan Fogler and his character Jacob Kowalski. Some fascinating new characters were added to the Potterverse, particularly Leta Lestrange who also had fantastic chemistry with Newt and quickly made audiences invested in her. There are wonderful Easter Eggs like a glimpse of the Philosopher’s Stone in Nicolas Flamel’s home.

The movie fails to meet its potential, though, because of two glaring problems. The first is that Johnny Depp is never charismatic or believable enough as Gellert Grindelwald, something which negatively affects other aspects of the movie like the arc of Queenie Goldstein. The other issue is that the movie spends way too much time trying to set up future installments and character arcs, and not enough time focusing on the story and characters at hand. For more of my thoughts, read the official review I wrote for FanSided!

5. The Leisure Seeker

It is truly a shame that The Leisure Seeker didn’t get more attention as it is a phenomenal film. Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland are at their very best in these roles, sharing a natural chemistry and bringing nuanced older adults to life on the big screen. Their outstanding performances offer a ride that is all at once touching, hilarious, uplifting, and at times deeply sad.

There are not enough depictions of complex older adult characters in entertainment, making it all the more refreshing to see Mirren and Sutherland making their characters a reality. The ending is neither uplifting nor depressing, but instead incredibly bittersweet. The movie doesn’t settle for a simplistic “Live life to the fullest and everything will work out” mentality.

The only downside in an otherwise fantastic movie is that there’s a plot twist that doesn’t feel quite earned and instead feels like a forced attempt at adding some unnecessary drama.

4. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story provides a true sense of adventure while opening audiences’ eyes to new corners of a galaxy far, far away. It’s a nice change of pace to have a story that doesn’t rely on a conflict between Jedi and Sith or decisions that will either save or doom the galaxy. It’s fun to see a smaller-scale conflict in the criminal underworld. It’s also intriguing to see the Empire at a stage when they have firm control of the galaxy, yet they aren’t used as the story’s primary antagonists.

In terms of the characters, the film does a wonderful job portraying the bromance dynamic between Han and Chewbacca. Alden Ehrenreich has an impressive performance which pays homage to Harrison Ford while also making it his own. Donald Glover is perfect as a younger Lando Calrissian. Emilia Clarke makes Qi’ra a more complex and mysterious character than anticipated, leading to stunning development and an even more stunning appearance of a fan-favorite character. L3-37 is both hilarious and insightful. The character of Enfys Nest is also taken in an unexpected direction that connects to Rogue One and opens up the door for many more compelling stories in the future. Considering all the behind-the-scenes drama that occurred, Ron Howard did a remarkable job pulling this film together.

Solo is a lot of fun, but it does seem like more of a surface level movie compared to recent Star Wars films. The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi left were fun but they also grappled with some complex questions and ideas. Solo doesn’t do that as much and as such doesn’t wow as much as other Star Wars films from the last few years.

3. Ralph Breaks the Internet

Ralph Breaks the Internet achieves the rare feat of a sequel being even better than its predecessor. Wreck-It-Ralph was clever, but the sequel takes that cleverness to a whole new level, while also further developing the delightful relationship between Ralph and Vanellope.

The visual rendering and world-building used for the Internet is so self-aware, which allows the humor and overall story to truly resonate with audiences. Perhaps the best example of this is the Disney princesses scene and Vanellope’s song that follows, all of which taps into the cultural conversation that’s surrounded Disney princesses for years. The Disney princesses scene is also enriched by the fact that most of them were voiced by the original voice actors from their respective movies.

Ralph Breaks the Internet is also surprisingly mature as the primary antagonist essentially ends up being a manifestation of Ralph’s insecurities. That surprising maturity is furthered with how Ralph and Vanellope ultimately decide to proceed with their close friendship despite having different aspirations and places that they want to call home.

2. Black Panther

Black Panther is arguably the most important superhero movie of all-time. The tropes of white, male-dominated superhero stories are shattered not only through the representation of Black superheroes and villains, but also through the representation of Black female characters.

Without a doubt, Black Panther provides the best female representation to date in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Okoye, Nakia, and Shuri all receive significant focus and development. Okoye as the warrior, Nakia as the covert spy, and Shuri as the brilliant scientist all provide positive representation in different ways. It’s also wonderful to see them working together rather than falling into the trope of female characters constantly bickering and fighting among themselves.

The use of Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross also breaks a common trope. As an outsider to Wakanda he acts as a bit of comic relief while also stepping up to be an unexpected hero that helps save the day. That role is generally reserved for the token Black, Hispanic, or Asian character. Black Panther turns the trope on its head by having one of the only movie’s white characters take on that role instead.

The villains are also a highlight of the movie. Andy Serkis is brilliant as the psychotic Ulysses Klaue, and the movie culminates Klaue’s story in a thoroughly unexpected way. Michael B. Jordan’s performance and the writing of Erik Killmonger is even more intriguing, though. Killmonger’s motivations largely rest in trying to fix the systematic injustices in place to oppress Black individuals around the world. This is a real-world issue that resonates with audiences. Killmonger’s motivations are completely understandable, but it’s his cruel and violent means of trying to fix the problem that make him a villain. His tragic backstory and motivations make him one of the most sympathetic and well-developed cinematic super-villains to ever exist.

1.  Avengers: Infinity War

Everyone knew Avengers: Infinity War was going to be epic. What made the movie even better than anticipated, though, was the impressive amount of character work that it did. A common concern leading up to the release was that there would be too many characters, ultimately leading to none of them really receiving any development or arc. While that is the case for some characters, many of them actually undergo a significant amount of development, particularly Gamora, Thor, Rocket, Wanda, Vision, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, and Doctor Strange.

Even more impressive is the character work done with Thanos, who despite wanting to wipe out half the universe comes across as a surprisingly grounded figure. His concerns of the suffering caused by overpopulation and starvation are logical. He truly believes what he’s doing is right and for the greater good, but obviously his methods of dealing with these issues are insane and make him a villain. Further fleshing out his relationship with Gamora also humanizes him further.

What makes Infinity War truly special, though, is how it ultimately rejects the formula that most MCU movies follow. Many beloved characters perish and for once the heroes do not emerge victorious. The stakes feel real and there’s a true sense of genuine loss and heartbreak that’s been missing from most MCU movies.

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If you liked what you read, check out more of my writing on Screen Rant, FanSided, Dork Side of the Force, and Beyond Westworld.

What were your favorite movies of 2018? Sound off in the comments!

 

 

Top Image Credit: Sony Animation Studios

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Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2017

Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2017

Say what you will about 2017, but it did deliver many excellent films. Critically it was one of the most fascinating years in recent memory. Instead of only drooling over the usual Oscar-bait, critics praised superhero movies like Wonder Woman while many upheld the horror-comedy Get Out as the best film of the year. As a result, the interests of yours truly actually aligned with many of the critics this year. While it was a refreshing change of pace, certain movies did or didn’t resonate with me like they did with the critics. Here are my top 10 favorite movies released in 2017 (minor spoilers ahead for some films):

10. Thor: Ragnarok

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‘Thor: Ragnarok’ [Credit: Marvel Studios]
Director Taika Waititi reshaped the narrative around Thor films through his bizarre, quirky, improvisational style. Despite the change in approach, Loki still stole the show with his charm, sarcasm and intricate character development. Tom Hiddleston’s approach to the character somehow works every time he appears, but all the other actors clearly got on board with Waititi’s vision as well and made it a reality. The movie finally embraced the cosmos outside Earth and Asgard through the weirdness of Sakaar, complemented by the hilarious Korg and Jeff Goldblum’s callous Grandmaster.

The movie didn’t live up to its complete potential, though, as it sometimes sacrificed important plot points or character moments for laughs. Important information about Surtur and Ragnarok is eclipsed in the beginning by Thor making dumb jokes. Beneath the humor, the film contained an intriguing theme about whitewashing history. Hela’s motivations and backstory relied heavily on this theme and the fascinating revelation that she and Odin built the empire of Asgard off the blood of other worlds before Odin banished Hela and changed the narrative. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t dive into this theme enough. But Waititi’s fresh approach works well overall, and provides excellent development for Thor, Bruce Banner/Hulk, Loki, and Valkyrie heading into Avengers: Infinity War.

9. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

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‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’ [Credit: Annapurna Pictures]
Following the sensational success of Wonder Woman, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women shares the fascinating tale of creation behind the iconic and more popular than ever superhero. The relationships between Professor William Marston, his wife Elizabeth, and their protégé Olive are deeply moving. Their story demonstrates the raw beauty of human love when stigmas are lifted. Audiences care about their relationships on a personal level, and seeing how their dynamics and personalities shape core elements of Wonder Woman allows audiences to care about these characters even further. Amidst their relationships, academia, feminism, BDSM, and the invention of the lie detector all play integral roles in creating Wonder Woman.

One narrative drawback in the film is that it feels like audiences are shown that William loves Elizabeth and Olive, Elizabeth loves William and Olive, and that Olive loves Elizabeth. However, the audience is really only told that Olive comes to love William and never shown this. This makes their dynamics and relationship less believable, but it ultimately doesn’t detract too much from the film’s many strong elements.

8. Coco

After a few sub-par entries in recent years, Pixar showed they were back on their game with Coco. The imaginative story delivers a celebration of culture, family, and music. The Land of the Dead is a visually breathtaking setting. Creative, meaningful concepts like the customs area and rules of who can and can’t pass over root the Land of the Dead in stellar world-building. Against this backdrop, Pixar brings the family-friendly humor but also explores deeper concepts like the role collective memory plays in shaping legacies and the identity of future generations. But there’s just as much emphasis on the impact of an individual’s memories on legacy and identity. There’s also a pretty shocking, dark twist in the film’s third act that directly influences the film’s exploration of memory. Above all the film is a diverse celebration of culture, family, and music and the healing power of these elements on memory.

7. Beauty and the Beast

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‘Beauty and the Beast’ [Credit: Walt Disney Studios]
Disney’s live-action remake acts as a homage to the 1991 animated film while incorporating a variety of fresh elements. One of the best examples is how a key bonding point between Belle and the Beast is their love for reading. This was touching in the 1991 film when Belle teaches Beast how to read and as he embraces the wonders of reading  the two characters find another meaningful bond with each other. This is made even better in the new film through their shared, intellectual passions as already voracious readers. Scenes in the library, where they both read independently or to each other at the dinner table and on the castle grounds honor the previous film while adding new, rich layers to the current story.

Emma Watson plays Belle perfectly through sharp intellect, charm, and fierce bravery. Characters like LeFou and Maurice become more nuanced instead of just existing as caricatures. Luke Evans is the perfect individual we never knew should play Gaston, capturing the character through the strongest singing performance in the film. The likes of Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, and Dan Stevens provide mesmerizing voices that help to bring the beloved characters and classic story to life like never before.

6. Get Out

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‘Get Out’ [Credit: Universal Pictures]
Get Out is the rare movie that has a strong idea behind it while the execution of that idea in the film is just as strong. The idea that we don’t live in a post-racial world isn’t mind-blowing, but it is an essential truth that needs to be explored. Jordan Peele’s horror-comedy delves into the facade of a post-racial world, and the ugliness lurking behind such lies. The delightful blend of thrilling, creepy, and hilarious elements make Peele’s approach to tackling these ideas equally entertaining and thought-provoking. Through the gradual buildup, arguably the most shocking film twist in 2017, and the violent ending, the suspense never falters. It’s a movie that’s completely engaging from start to finish, and will stick with audiences long after they see the film.

5. War for the Planet of the Apes

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‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
By developing character and theme instead of spectacle, this science-fiction prequel trilogy always seemed to be way better than it had any right to be. The concluding chapter in the trilogy continued this success with perhaps the strongest entry yet. Instead of a drawn-out explosive fight between apes and humans, the movie hones in on Caesar’s misguided revenge plot. Like a tragic Shakespearean figure, Caesar is a brilliant, now broken leader, seeking revenge with the futile hope it will heal his many losses. The film particularly excels in quiet moments of beauty and tragedy, all asking the audience what it truly means to be human. The moment in which the mute human child Nova asks Maurice if she is an ape is both poignant and uplifting. The final, wordless confrontation between Caesar and Woody Harrelson’s villain exposes the thin line between their two species and provides insight into what humanity really looks like. It’s heavy stuff, made a little lighter by Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape.

4. Blade Runner 2049

It’s difficult to continue the story of a classic, especially after garnering thirty years of critical acclaim. Blade Runner 2049 manages to not only act as a worthy sequel, but it provides compelling world-building and further enhances the overall narrative. Through visually stunning cinematography and a soundtrack that perfectly captures the mood, the film explores the question of what it really means to be human. Building on the original Blade Runner, Replicants tend to act more humane than humans, leaving the audience to ponder what genuine humanity is at all. Ryan Gosling’s character K has rich development that subverts the “chosen one” trope. His relationship with Joi acts as a poignant and sometimes amusing insight into the relationships modern day individuals share with their prized technological devices. Harrison Ford’s Deckard is used the perfect amount, providing depth and a redemptive arc that enriches his overall character. There are more twists than in the original film, though the sequel lacks some of its predecessor’s rich ambiguity. This is partly rooted in Jared Leto’s performance as the underdeveloped villain Niander Wallace. But overall the core themes and characters are thought-provoking enough and the film beautifully made to outweigh such drawbacks.

3. Wonder Woman

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‘Wonder Woman’ [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]

Blending together elements of mythology, history, and superhero origin stories, Wonder Woman became one of the most entertaining and important movies of the year. Gal Gadot’s sensational performance nailed all aspects of the character, along with an inspired supporting cast. Audiences finally got to experience a female-led superhero movie brimming with heart, humor, and epic sequences. The emphasis on mythology and the World War I setting gave the film a unique feel that is grounded with traditional elements of a superhero origin story. It is a refreshing break from the brooding angst of recent superhero films, particularly in the DCEU. In an age where darkness and cynicism often reign both in entertainment and reality, Wonder Woman is an uplifting breath of fresh air.

2. Logan

X-Men films are often constrained by their massive ensembles, leaving many compelling characters unexplored in a race to an explosive battle in the third act. Logan prevented this issue by focusing on the characters of Logan, Charles Xavier, and Laura. The character-driven story leads to the best X-Men film of all time as the three protagonists and their relationships are explored in-depth. Logan and Charles struggle to find their places in a world that has moved on from mutants, haunted by the sins of their pasts. Both men find purpose through Laura, a mutant child who is fierce with her powers, but in desperate need of guidance and companionship. They form a kind of dysfunctional family as Laura learns what it means to not just survive, but to embrace the gift of life.

This journey with Laura allows Charles and Logan to not only find purpose, but to finally confront their demons and complete their incredible character arcs in service to the future represented by Laura and her young mutant friends. The brutal fight scenes, the dysfunction between Logan and Caliban and a dementia-plagued Charles, and the quieter scenes between Logan and Charles and Laura all play equally well. Ultimately, the film exemplifies the beautiful and chaotic mess of life that Logan, Charles, and Laura all learn to embrace in different ways.

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ [Credit: Walt Disney Studios/Lucasfilm]
The core reason The Last Jedi is so divisive among fans is the very reason the film should be applauded. Rian Johnson dared to make bold choices and take substantial risks with his approach to the film. He deconstructed what audiences should expect from a Star Wars film. Instead of seeing constraints placed by the existing films and canon, he saw opportunities to expand the universe and test the characters in refreshing ways. This doesn’t just mean shocking twists. It means challenging the misconception from both characters and audiences that Luke Skywalker is a perfect legend. It means challenging the idea that Rey’s destiny relies on her lineage. It means characters figuring out how to resolve a situation when their desperate, half-baked plans fail to save the day. It means pushing the boundaries of the abilities wielded by Force-sensitive individuals, and the beliefs that govern their decisions.

Carrie Fisher delivers one of her all-time best performances in what will tragically be her final appearance as Leia. Her steadfast leadership in impossible situations, wry humor, palpable spirit, and an overdue use of a certain power serve as a beautiful testament to both Leia and Carrie Fisher herself. Mark Hamill sells Luke’s complex and ultimately satisfying journey, an arc that doesn’t destroy the character but that challenges his core identity when he feels like he’s failed the galaxy and the people he cares about most. Learning from his mistakes and with the help of an old friend, Luke experiences some of his greatest development yet with the decisions he makes in the film’s final act.

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are fantastic as well, selling the unlikely bond that forms between Rey and Kylo Ren as they channel their raw power and struggle to find their place and purpose in the galaxy.  They are equally as compelling at portraying how their characters grapple with the mind-blowing consequences of the bond they sought for different reasons. Of the brand new characters, Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo is the standout. Soft-spoken and reserved and appearing more feminine than other Resistance members, she challenges both characters like Poe and the audience to rethink what makes a true leader and hero. This is a lesson that both audiences and characters need as there’s far more to successful heroism and leadership than jumping in an X-Wing and blowing stuff up. With the aid of lightspeed, Holdo also owns one of the film’s most epic moments.

The movie isn’t perfect—such as Captain Phasma being wasted again—but overall The Last Jedi is the most captivating and bold movie of 2017 from start to finish.

If you enjoyed what you read, check out more of my writing on Screen Rant: https://screenrant.com/author/mrudo/

What’s your favorite movie of 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

Top Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios/Lucasfilm

New Posts Update

Hey everyone! I just wanted to let you know that for the past few months I’ve primarily been writing posts at this link: https://creators.co/@MatthewRudoy

I will occasionally post here but will continue to primarily post on my Creators page. Check out my page to stay updated on the latest for TV shows and movies!

How Shireen Baratheon’s Legacy Led To A Major ‘Game Of Thrones’ Revelation

How Shireen Baratheon’s Legacy Led To A Major ‘Game Of Thrones’ Revelation

Warning: Game of Thrones spoilers ahead.

From the return of a long-departed character to news of an unexpected pregnancy, Season 7 of Game of Thrones continues to slay with the latest episode ‘Eastwatch’. Yet, another huge moment flew under the radar amidst books and a mispronunciation, a major revelation that even the scholarly Samwell Tarly didn’t catch. This moment was brought to us by Gilly, but would not have been possible without Shireen Baratheon and her lasting impact. Let’s first take a look at Gilly’s discovery:

Gilly Uncovers The Real Story Behind R+L=J

As Gilly regaled a frustrated Sam with fun facts like the number of steps in the Citadel and how many windows were in the Great Sept of Baelor, she unwittingly stumbled upon the true story behind Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. The longtime fan theory that Rhaegar and Lyanna were Jon Snow’s parents—R+L=J—was confirmed in the Season 6 finale ‘The Winds of Winter’ via Bran’s vision at the Tower of Joy. But until now audiences still didn’t know the real deal behind Rhaegar and Lyanna. Some claimed Rhaegar kidnapped and raped Lyanna while others spoke of passionate lovers that essentially eloped, their love burning too bright for the Seven Kingdoms. Now, as Gilly tells Sam via the diligent recordings of High Septon Maynard,

“Maynard says here that he issued an annulment for a Prince ‘Ragger’ and remarried him to someone else at the same time in a secret ceremony in Dorne.”

Gilly has come a long way with her reading ability, but her pronunciations are still not perfect. Prince ‘Ragger’ is actually Prince Rhaegar. Gilly thus discovers that the tale of passionate, consensual love between Rhaegar and Lyanna is the true tale. Rhaegar’s marriage to Elia Martell was annulled by this High Septon Maynard who then secretly remarried him. The ‘someone else’ has to be Lyanna based on what is known about the timing of Rhaegar disappearing with Lyanna, the beginning of Robert’s Rebellion, and eventually the confirmation of R+L=J that Bran witnessed in his Tower of Joy vision.

Not only does this put to rest the debate about Rhaegar and Lyanna’s relationship, but it also clarifies that  is not a bastard. Since Lyanna and Rhaegar married, Jon is a legitimate Targaryen child. Had Rhaegar lived to succeed his father Aerys Targaryen—the Mad King—Jon would’ve been Rhaegar’s heir to the Iron Throne. Now by the laws of Westeros and the Targaryen claim, Jon has a better claim to the Iron Throne than his Aunt Daenerys (Aunt Daenerys sounds even weirder than I thought it would).

Brimming with justified frustration and contempt for the Citadel, Sam completely missed this revelation. For both the past and future of Jon Snow and all of Westeros, Gilly’s discovery will be crucial moving forward, though it wouldn’t have happened without Shireen Baratheon.

Shireen’s Lasting Legacy

Shireen’s death is easily one of the most heartbreaking moments in all of . As fans continue to struggle with the loss of the girl both so fiercely intelligent and sweet, Season 7 has provided some closure and comfort through the likes of Gilly and Davos Seaworth. Shireen’s relationship with her parents left much to be desired, yet she formed lovely relationships with Gilly and Davos. Both Gilly and Davos were illiterate, but Shireen taught them how to read. Sam helped Gilly learn to read as well, however, Shireen was also integral to building Gilly’s literacy skills.

Without Shireen, Gilly would’ve never learned to read. Without Gilly knowing how to read, the revelation about Rhaegar and Lyanna and what that means for Jon would currently remain a mystery. On a personal level, Shireen’s teaching has also enriched the relationship between Sam and Gilly. Gilly is now just as capable at sharing obscure, fun facts that broaden one’s perspective of the world. Sam and Gilly’s relationship is therefore more intellectual and just as sweet as ever.

The legacy of Shireen also lives on through Davos. Fans reveled in Davos correcting Jon’s grammar in ‘The Spoils Of War’ but the teaching credit seems to be going towards Stannis. More credit should go to Shireen as she directly taught Davos to read during numerous hours of instruction as opposed to Stannis’s occasional mutterings about grammar. Regardless, it’s comforting to see Shireen’s legacy live on through the literacy of both Davos and Gilly, whether it’s Gilly’s discovery or Davos correcting the King in the North’s grammar. Even in the cutthroat world of Westeros, literacy is essential.

Season 7 of Game of Thrones continues Sunday, August 20th on .

Image Credit: HBO

Does An Unlikely Ally Await Tyene Sand In King’s Landing?

Does An Unlikely Ally Await Tyene Sand In King’s Landing?

It was a rough night for Tyene Sand. Tyene and her mother Ellaria Sand were taken captive following the brutal murders of Obara and Nymeria at the hands of Euron Greyjoy. Now Euron heads for King’s Landing with the priceless gift he promised Cersei. Queen Cersei’s rage will run unchecked as she torments the women responsible for lethally poisoning Myrcella. Life is pretty terrible for Tyene and her mother right now, but perhaps their doom isn’t quite sealed thanks to an unlikely ally in King’s Landing: Bronn. The opportunistic sellsword only became the anointed knight Ser Bronn of the Blackwater through working with Lannisters—the very people the Sands seek to destroy. So why would Bronn help these women?

Bronn’s History With Tyene

In Season 5 Bronn traveled to Dorne with Jaime Lannister on a foolhardy mission to find Myrcella and bring her back to King’s Landing. Tyene and her fellow Sand Snake sisters (R.I.P. Obara and Nymeria) clashed with Jaime and Bronn. During the fight Tyene’s dagger cut Bronn with the same poison that would later kill Myrcella. The poison nearly killed him while captive in the Dornish cells. Tyene saved him by tossing over the antidote, only after seducing Bronn from the opposite cell and making him agree that she’s the most beautiful women in the world. She also complimented Bronn’s singing and his looks.

[Credit: Giphy.com]

Will Bronn Help Tyene Or Her Mother?

Attraction and chemistry flared between Bronn and Tyene in Season 5. But more importantly, Tyene chose to save Bronn’s life when she could’ve easily allowed the poison to kill Bronn as it later did Myrcella. Bronn owes Tyene his life. Bad p*ssy is not worth betraying the Lannisters and risking his life.

A life debt is a different story.

Bronn may live for gold and the promises of great wealth that will lead to a castle and noblewoman, but he also has a code. He’s always remained brutally honest and loyal to both Tyrion and Jaime. Sure, they’ve paid him well and lured him with appealing promises but it’s still impressive he’s remained so loyal and honest.

Credit: Giphy.com

Jaime may still live by certain reasonable and moral principles unlike his sister, but all of that will be thrown out the window when Tyene and Ellaria arrive in King’s Landing. These are the women responsible for killing the daughter who died in Jaime’s arms seconds after telling Jaime she knew he was her father and was glad about it. Jaime will want Tyene and Ellaria to suffer just as much as Cersei does.

Thus, aiding Tyene would be the first instance of Bronn betraying the Lannisters he serves. Bronn probably won’t have any interest in helping Ellaria as they have no history and she was the real mastermind behind Myrcella’s death, though Tyene would want him to help her as well. Bronn is now faced with the choice of whether to try and save the life of a woman to whom he owes a life debt and has feelings for or to remain loyal to his benefactor and friend Jaime Lannister.

The Verdict

Ultimately it is unlikely that Bronn will step in to save Tyene or Ellaria from Cersei’s wrath. Beneath his ceaseless opportunism Bronn may live by a code, but part of that code is to remain alive and do what your generous benefactors ask of you. There is too much risk and not enough reward in this situation.

Bronn can also be seen next to Jaime Lannister on a battlefield sequence in a Season 7 trailer. Unless he’s able to save Tyene without Jaime, Cersei or any of their allies finding out, there’s no way Bronn would be next to Jaime on the battlefield.

Jaime and Bronn on the battlefield in a 'Game of Thrones' Season 7 trailer [Credit: HBO]
Credit: HBO
Still, things were left open-ended enough between Bronn and Tyene in Season 5 with hints towards a future meeting. Current events have created a foundation for such a meeting in King’s Landing. However, it will certainly not be the pleasure-filled reunion either character envisioned. Most likely is a scene in which Tyene pleads with Bronn to help as he silently refuses, his instincts for self-preservation taking precedence over the life debt he owes and feelings he harbors for her.

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 3 “The Queen’s Justice” airs Sunday, June 30th at 9 PM on .

Will Bronn face Tyene Sand in King’s Landing and help her? Share your prediction in the comments section below!

Image Credit: HBO

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Arya Stark Steals The Show In ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Premiere

Arya Stark Steals The Show In ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Premiere

Warning: Game of Thrones Season 7 spoilers ahead.

The Game of Thrones Season 7 premiere “Dragonstone” delivered fantastic moments all around but saved the best for Arya Stark. After spending most of Seasons 5 and 6 locked in a storyline that frustrated many fans, Arya finally gets the scenes she deserve that convey both her cunning nature and her humanity.

That Awkward Moment When You Didn’t Kill All The Starks

Ever since the Red Wedding the Freys have patted themselves on the back for murdering and betraying the Starks. Their triumph made them more careless than ever as they lost Riverrun to the Blackfish and needed Jaime and the Lannister army to reclaim the castle in Season 6. Even after re-seizing Riverrun, the carelessness continued as Arya used her skills gained in Braavos to enact revenge against Walder Frey in the Season 6 finale.

Arya kills Walder Frey. [Credit: HBO]
Arya kills Walder Frey. [Credit: HBO]
Season 7 opens perfectly with Arya fulfilling her revenge against all the Freys. David Bradley brilliantly balances a Walder Frey convincing enough for his kin but with enough subtle differences that the audience knows it’s Arya wearing his face. Her words drive home just how messed up it is that the Freys continue to congratulate themselves because they “butchered a woman pregnant with her babe” and “cut the throat of a mother of five” and “slaughtered your guests after inviting them into your home.” Just like when she’s killed others on her list such as Polliver, Meryn Trant, and Walder Frey, Arya makes sure all the Freys know why they’re dying and who is killing them. In their final moments the Freys come face to face with the height of their heinous crimes and the fatal price of their careless arrogance.

The smirk on Arya’s face as she strolls past the array of lethally poisoned Freys is reminiscent of Sansa’s smirk after leaving Ramsay to his starving hounds, reminding audiences again of why Sansa and Arya need to reunite. Arya’s revenge is not only just but she also has enough humanity to spare Walder Frey’s latest wife and the serving women. She recognizes the futility of killing women who took no part in executing the Red Wedding, especially when the wife is a victim of the very people she hates. It also doesn’t hurt that they’ll spread the word about what happens when you mess with the Starks.

There’s Still Humanity In Westeros

Arya continued to steal the show beyond her epic Red Wedding revenge in a later scene where she encounters a small group of Lannister soldiers featuring a cameo from Ed Sheeran. While the opening scene displayed her cunning nature with a dash of humanity, this scene swapped the roles of those defining characteristics. Encountering a group of enemy soldiers near the Twins is not an unfamiliar situation for Arya. The very same thing happened in the Season 3 finale, only it was a small group of Frey soldiers shortly after the Red Wedding. Arya killed her first man back then and needed the Hound to finish off the rest. Coming off her single-handed mass poisoning of all important Freys, killing this group of Lannister soldiers didn’t seem like too difficult a feat.

What happens in this scene is way better than another bout of vengeful of murder, though. Arya’s humanity surfaces as the soldiers show their humanity. They offer her food and personally brewed drink and even give her the first bite since she’s their guest. One soldier shares his mother’s advice about being kind to strangers and expresses concern for his father while another smiles while talking about his wife having a baby. It’s a far cry from the Frey soldiers mocking the way Catelyn Stark sounded as she died.

Game of Thrones reminds us that while highborn individuals fight for the Iron Throne and the Army of the Dead looms closer, there are still plenty of everyday people in Westeros. Most of these individuals aren’t like the self-serving, sadistic schemers we’re used to seeing. They’re just normal folk with common fears and desires who happen to serve in an army that’s been considered the enemy since Season 1.

Maisie Williams carries the scene, her eyes expressing just a hint of surprise that these Lannister soldiers are such compassionate and normal people. She can’t help but smile and laugh, connecting with these soldiers and their everyday worries and desires. They unknowingly bring forth her humanity at a time when she needs it most, a time in which she can become completely consumed by her vengeance, no matter how justified it may be. With Arya’s life in recent years mostly revolving around Jaqen H’ghar and the Waif beating her into becoming “No One” and crossing enemies off her list, this scene is the first positive human interaction Arya has had in a long time. She even allays the soldiers’ mild suspicions with the unbelievable truth and more laughter.

What’s Next For Arya?

It seems like Arya is headed south to kill Cersei and the Mountain, thereby completing her list. This taking precedence over reuniting with her siblings at Winterfell is a bit disappointing. Nevertheless, the road to King’s Landing and the enemies that await her there will certainly prove fascinating. Arya traveling to King’s Landing with the same group of Lannister soldiers she met in this episode would be particularly fascinating. They could grow fond and protective of Arya, unaware of her identity. Unfortunately this is unlikely to happen as those soldiers were sent to the Riverlands in the first place to keep the peace in the wake of Arya’s violent actions at the Twins. More importantly it’s unlikely Ed Sheeran is going to transcend a cameo role and become a recurring character. Poised for a direwolf reunion in the preview for next week’s episode and her most formidable enemies yet awaiting in King’s Landing, Arya’s story will continue to be a highlight of Season 7.

What predictions do you have for Arya as Season 7 continues?

 

Image Credit: HBO

Will The Ghost Crew Meet Cassian And K-2SO In ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Season 4?

From Lando Calrissian to Ahsoka Tano, Star Wars Rebels excels at weaving a rich array of Star Wars characters into their narrative. Fans reveled in the inclusion of Rogue One characters in Season 3, such as Saw Gerrera and Mon Mothma, both of whom are set to return in Season 4. With Star Wars Rebels entering its final season, and the show’s timeline growing even closer to the events of Rogue One, the potential for including more Rogue One characters definitely exists. Two fan favorites — Cassian Andor and K-2SO — have the most potential of Rogue One characters to meet the Ghost crew in Season 4 with their integral roles in the Rebel Alliance.

Yavin 4 Sets The Perfect Stage For Meeting

Audiences already know from Rogue One that Cassian and K-2 are staples of the Rebel Alliance and frequent the base on Yavin 4. The  Season 3 finale and Season 4 trailer show the Ghostcrew is now headed to Yavin 4. Cassian has been in the fight against the Empire since he was 6 years old and, due to his crucial position in the Alliance by the time of Rogue One, it’s a sure bet he’d already be on Yavin 4 during the time of Season 4.

It’s unclear how long K-2 has been part of the Alliance, though an upcoming comic book will likely clarify that. Unless the timing is super close to the beginning of Rogue One — which is unlikely based on K-2’s familiarity with the Alliance and repertoire with Cassian in the film — K-2 is just as likely to be frequenting the Yavin 4 base around the time of Star Wars Rebels Season 4.

There are countless ways Cassian and K-2 can cross paths with the Ghost crew once they land. Cassian could even be an individual to whom they report in greater detail what happened at the Battle of Atollon. While Cassian and K-2 could meet all members of the Ghost crew, in terms of longevity, the characters they’re most likely to meet and maintain relationships with are Hera and Chopper, who are at Yavin 4 during the time of Rogue One.

K-2 interacting with Chopper and AP-5 would be absolutely hilarious, and he would refuse to take any crap from the sometimes immature Zeb and Ezra. Dedicated to defeating the Empire and restoring what they’ve destroyed, Cassian would likely be most interested in meeting the Jedi among the Ghost crew: Kanan and Ezra.

Kanan and Ezra in 'Star Wars Rebels' [Credit: Disney-ABC TV]
Kanan and Ezra in ‘Star Wars Rebels’ [Credit: Disney-ABC TV]

Would Cassian Mistake Chirrut For A Jedi If He’d Already Met Kanan And Ezra?

After Cassian witnesses the blind Chirrut Imwe battling Stormtroopers on Jedha, he asks Baze Malbus if Chirrut is a Jedi. This makes sense when watching Rogue One, as the Jedi have mostly become the stuff of myths and legends due after Order 66. Chirrut’s dialogue concerning the Force and his unique fighting style would logically make Cassian wonder if the Guardian of the Whills is a Jedi.

While this makes sense in the context of Rogue One and Star Wars canon up to that point, it is highly unlikely that Cassian would mistake Chirrut for a Jedi if he’d already met Kanan and Ezra. Chirrut is impressive and his belief in the Force powerful, but he is not a Jedi. If Cassian has met Kanan and Ezra, seen them use the Force, and wield their lightsabers, Cassian should recognize Chirrut is not a Jedi.

If their meeting is written well, Cassian could meet Kanan and Ezra without seeing them use their powers or even knowing they’re Jedi. There likely won’t be any fighting on the Rebel base, so there would probably be no need for Kanan and Ezra to use their powers, so Cassian would never know their identity. There’s no need for Kanan and Ezra to announce they’re Jedi ,or for members of the Rebel Alliance like Bail Organa to inform Cassian.

There’s also the possibility that Cassian and K-2 could meet some but not all members of the Ghost crew. From a writing standpoint, there are many storylines to resolve, and from an in-universe standpoint, there are endless battles to be waged in the fight against the Empire. Both options could lead the Ghost crew to split up more than ever before. This began last season when Sabine chose to stay with her family on Mandalore, intent on uniting her war-torn home world.

This season, some of the Ghost crew could head to Lothal to liberate the planet from the Empire, while others combat the ongoing threat of Grand Admiral Thrawn. If Kanan and Ezra go to Lothal, Cassian and K-2 could still meet other members of the Ghost crew like Hera and Zeb.

Cassian’s Fulcrum Status Could Lead To A Mission With The Ghost Crew

Just because the Rebel Alliance base is on Yavin 4 and Cassian, K-2 and the Ghost crew will logically all be there this season doesn’t mean it’s the only place these characters can meet. Just like Ahsoka and Kallus, Cassian is also a Fulcrum agent. With Ahsoka’s fate still a mystery, and Kallus getting his cover blown at the end of last season, Cassian could very well become the key Fulcrum agent in the show. As an undercover agent, he could easily be assigned to help the Ghost crew infiltrate an Imperial base or a planet occupied by the Empire.

Cassian could even be assigned to help the Ghost crew in their mission to liberate Lothal. Cassian’s sniper skills and K-2’s piloting skills could be utilized for that mission. K-2 would also be well-suited for such a mission thanks to his knowledge of the Empire and ability to blend in as a former Imperial droid.

Even more intriguing is the possibility that Cassian and K-2 work with the Ghost crew without them realizing who Cassian and K-2 are, or that they’re part of the Rebel Alliance. The Ghost crew received critical information from an unknown Fulcrum agent in Season 3 before learning the information came from Kallus. They’d been actively fighting Kallus without realizing he was Fulcrum and on their side, which helped further Kallus’s deception towards his Imperial peers. A similar situation could arise with Cassian and K-2 in order to maintain their cover within the Empire.

Commander Sato and the Ghost Crew receiving information from Fulcrum in ''Star Wars Rebels' [Credit: Disney-ABC TV]
Commander Sato and the Ghost Crew receiving information from Fulcrum in ”Star Wars Rebels’ [Credit: Disney-ABC TV]
With all these pieces aligned, it would be a missed opportunity to not introduce Cassian and K-2SO into Star Wars Rebels and have them meet the Ghost crew. Such inclusion can provide more specific insight into what Cassian and K-2 did for the Rebel Alliance before Rogue One, particularly concerning some of Cassian’s morally questionable actions that still haunt him. Creating a meeting between these characters can further the fascinating connectivity in canon and another meaningful link between Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels.

Season 4 of Star Wars Rebels premieres Saturday, September 23 on Disney XD.

Do you think the Ghost crew will meet Cassian and K-2SO this season?