The Best Films of 2018, So Far

The Best Films of 2018, So Far

We're nearing the midway point for the year already, as hard as that is to imagine. The past few months have given us some undeniably great and entertaining films, from record breaking sci-fi blockbusters to smaller, more intimate sensations in the realm of indie and foreign film. Here, the contributors at Talk Film Society have listed some of their favorites of the year, many of which are now available to buy/rent/stream. Take a look:


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Annihilation

Annihilation is one of the best movies of the year, flat out. It’s currently at the top of my personal list, and barring any major shakeups in the back half of 2018, will likely stay there. As Lena, Natalie Portman plays the part of unreliable narrator, and Alex Garland’s script and direction make it so we’re discovering that unreliability right along with her—The Shimmer’s effects on her perception, memory, and relation to humanity changes with every step. First Lena is confused, then curious, and finally determined, by what she encounters along with her team members in the Southern Reach’s hybridized and mutated ecology. Plants that shouldn’t exist alongside each other are hybridized to the same vine. A human corpse is exploded in a bloom of fungi and mold, bonded to a wall. And that’s just in the first act. Not every answer is handed to the viewer, and that’s for Annihilation’s benefit, as the unreliable and intercut narrative takes on a fractal quality, with each interpretation gaining its own legitimacy. The visuals, the acting, the direction, and the atmosphere all feed into each other in such a way that most wide-release films don’t bother attempting. - Sean Beattie

Read our full Annihilation review here.


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Black Panther

Much has been said already about the box office phenomenon set in Wakanda, but Black Panther deserves to be in the best of conversation simply for its impact on the culture at large. The film defines what a modern day blockbuster is supposed to be. Even after its theatrical run, Black Panther is an absolute knockout on 4K presentations. One significant attribute of the film is the stunning performance by Michael B. Jordan, providing the most layered and fascinating portrayal of a villain in the MCU. Erik Killmonger’s motives are understandable and wildly misguided, which is exactly what they need to be in a heightened film like this. Black Panther separates itself from the usual comic book fare because its political themes aren’t just obvious blanket statements such as “greed is bad” or “killing half of the population is problematic.” Instead, T’Challa and the characters around him struggle with the responsibility of their unique technological advantages in Wakanda. Should they share their Vibranium with the world or keep it to themselves? I believe that this element of the film will eventually catapult Black Panther into the Best Picture conversation at the end of the year. - Joey Aucoin

Read our full Black Panther review here.


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Blockers

Kay Cannon’s film takes a standard “virginity pact” teen comedy premise and gives it a sweet, progressive twist. The film offers some big laughs and tender moments, with a game for anything lead cast including Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz. The highlight of the film is the three young actresses (Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adlon), each with confident, unique comedic presences. - Manish Mathur

Read our full Blockers review here.


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First Reformed

Paul Schrader's latest is a complete departure from his recent trajectory, at once deeply personal and the culmination of what his career has been building towards. Ethan Hawke stars as Toller, a weary reverend whose sense of being begins to unravel after speaking with a disturbed member of his congregation, as he feels disconnected from the changing world around him. Embodying the tenets of his work Notes on Transcendental Style, while taking shape as a pious Taxi Driver, First Reformed is a startling, and powerful piece of work that stands high and mighty among Schrader's filmography. - Rob Trench


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Game Night

Studio comedies have been very hit and miss for years now, but there hasn’t been one that hits quite as hard as Game Night in a long time. A competitive group of couples gather to have a friendly night of playing games, but end up unwittingly wrapped up in a real murder mystery. The jokes are rapid-fire when appropriate, and when not you’re wrapped by an actually engaging puzzle a la David Fincher’s 1997 feature The Game. Rachel McAdams has never been this hilarious, but it’s Jesse Plemons’ creepy, needy policeman next door who steals the show. - Marcus Irving

Read our full Game Night review here.


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How to Talk to Girls At Parties

It's been over fifteen years but John Cameron Mitchell has finally made his way back to the music genre with How to Talk to Girls at Parties, his totally out there Sci-Fi/Punk Rock Odyssey. A wild time at the movies with a grimy period aesthetic and inventive filmmaking techniques, Mitchell's latest certainly isn't for everyone but if you're on its wavelength you'll find a lot to love. Elle Fanning continues her streak of choosing out-there roles and making them her own. Oh and if you've ever wanted to see Nicole Kidman as a Punk Scene Queen, here's your chance. - Matt Curione


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Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson's latest is certainly problematic in its representation of Japanese culture, even if the director's heart is in the right place. At its core, a story about the love between a boy and his dog, against a high concept, highly politicized backdrop, dealing with marginalization of minorities and their expulsion from society - something incredibly relevant in this day and age. Still, we get to see Anderson let loose and have fun more than in his past work, joined by a vast ensemble of talented actors, standing to be one of 2018's most entrancing animated features.  - Rob Trench

Read our full Isle of Dogs review here.


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Love, Simon

A funny and charming entry into the coming-of-age teen drama canon, Love, SImon tells the story of Simon (Nick Robinson), a teen troubled with coming out to his friends and family, whose big secret threatens to be revealed while also dealing with a secret admirer. An intriguing, boundary-pushing premise that comes with a lot of heart, that's way better than the typical young adult adaptation. With much hope, it'll become a new classic for future teenagers, and inspire a lot more LGBTQ stories to be told from a mainstream perspective. - Rob Trench


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Paddington 2

The true hero of the year, like a rainbow sitting behind the dumpster fire that is 2018, arrives not with a blaster or in the form of a superhero, but instead with a red hat, a marmalade sandwich, and in the form of a three-foot-tall clumsy little bear named Paddington. Paddington 2 picks up where the first left off; the marmalade-loving bear has fully joined the Brown family and their community in London, and now his highest aspirations are to send his Aunt Lucy -- currently residing in the retirement home for bears in Darkest Peru -- a birthday present. His noble quest leads to misunderstanding and to him being framed for theft. As most kids movies attempt to bring to life loving, good characters, Paddington 2 stands out as the movie that is loving and good in its execution (likely an attempt to reflect the ethos of the bear, himself). Each frame exudes empathy, understanding, delightful misadventure, and an optimistic hope for a future world that views immigration with admiration and where people’s lives are centered around love despite their surroundings.  - Reid Ramsay

Read our full Paddington 2 review here.


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A Quiet Place

I don’t think anyone expected John Krasinski, best known as “Jim from The Office”, to come along with his third feature as a director and deliver one of the best studio horror films in years. Yet that’s exactly what he did with A Quiet Place. Set in a post-apocalypse where an unknown threat hunts by sense of sound alone, one family has found a way to live silently. The exacting direction, phenomenal performances from Emily Blunt and newcomer Millicent Simmonds, and next-level sound design, are the elements that send this creature feature over the top. What is truly refreshing is the way this film treats disability. While casting a disabled actor to play a disabled character should be the norm it’s sadly not, so having Simmonds playing the deaf daughter feels almost revolutionary. The film also doesn’t treat the disability as a weakness or obstacle, but simply as part of this character and, ultimately, a strength. A Quiet Place is a truly great film that I can not recommend enough. - Sam Van Haren

Read our full A Quiet Place review here.


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Red Sparrow

It’s the second year in a row where Jennifer Lawrence has thrown herself uncompromisingly into an intense role in a fucked up movie, and the second year in a row where that bold choice has paid off wonders. I wouldn’t say Red Sparrow is as essential a movie as last year’s mother!, but Lawrence’s tale of transformation from Russian ballerina to master spy is nothing short of compelling. The sexually explicit and violent film is upsetting, angering even (I’ve never been a part of a more uncomfortable sold-out opening weekend audience), but it’s as elegant as it is vile and told with full commitment from Lawrence and director Francis Lawrence. - Marcus Irving

Read our full Red Sparrow review here.


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Revenge

The rape-revenge genre has been wrung dry over the last several decades. Especially now, in 2018, what else can be done that could bring any semblance of worth to the tired pastiche? The answer is Revenge. Writer-director Coralie Fargeat’s familiar tale of a woman exacting revenge on her assaulters is a vibrant, smart (peyote) trip, mixing horror, action and western, with a lead performance by Matilda Lutz that should make her superstar. Fargeat flips the script, playing with the tired male gaze. The camera first lingers on Lutz’s character in the first half, but she is then transformed into a badass killer in the second half. Not only do her targets get violently taken out—with some outstanding gore effects—but her male adversaries are stripped down and violated in the most satisfying, cathartic of ways. Revenge is not only an effective thriller but a statement—in her first feature film, Fargeat proves she’s a filmmaker to be reckoned with. - Marcelo Pico

Read our full Revenge review here.


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The Rider

Chloe Zhao's sophomore feature is a sort of heightened documentary, in that it blends fact and fiction to tell the story of Brady, a rodeo cowboy that has his career cut short after a devastating head injury. It encompasses a stunning, breathtaking depiction of the American heartland, one of a bygone era that recalls Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven and Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show. At the centre of it, the naturalism on display that is captured through Brady's performance, his connection to nature, and the poignant, despairing notion of being unable to carry on with the life he was destined for. Simple, yet resolutely affecting, it stands to be one of the best independent films of the year. - Rob Trench


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The Tale

A few weeks ago, with so fanfare or advertisement of any kind, HBO unceremoniously put out Jennifer Fox’s Sundance hit, The Tale. It’s not terribly surprising that it was handled this way, really. After all, there isn’t a single shot or line within The Tale that gives you one moment of reprieve from the deeply troubling story of Fox’s real childhood traumas at the hands of disarmingly charming abusers. Through her eyes, we experience the untrustworthy nature of memory and the bittersweet feelings of coming to terms with one’s troubled past. The film is cemented in its disturbing reality through the brave, honest performances given by the entire cast, from Laura Dern’s frankness to Elizabeth Debicki’s often chilling realism. The Tale is a brutal, exhausting journey, but it’s a vital and crucial cinematic experience about the complex mental damage caused by abuse. - Callie Smith


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Thoroughbreds

Cory Finley's debut feature was intended to be a play, but eventually worked its way into another medium. Thank god it did, as we might not have been blessed with Thoroughbreds,  a dark, shifting suspense thriller which recalls Heathers, American Psycho, and Diabolique, in telling the story of two former childhood friends (Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy) who become involved in a scheme to murder one of their stepdads. The script is stellar in its devious charm, perfectly capturing the warped psyches of today's youth, bolstered by fantastic performances from it's two leads and the late Anton Yelchin in his final role. - Rob Trench


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Unsane

Coming just six months after his ‘return to filmmaking’, Logan Lucky, Steven Soderbergh delivers an experiment in form this side of Bubble. Unsane may not be the first movie shot on an iPhone, but it’s certainly the first directed and shot by one of the most high-profile filmmakers working today. The film centers around a woman trapped in a psychiatric ward, and while Claire Foy’s lead performance is a standout of the year, so far, it’s Soderbergh’s freewheeling camera that’s remarkable—not necessarily the gamechanger the director preached it as, but one for sure that has seemingly changed the course of Soderbergh’s career. His next film has already been shot, and Soderbergh is sticking to his guns when it comes to the 4K-camera-in-your-pocket. It feels like it’s for the best when there’s a movie like Unsane on his filmography, one that ventures into a genre the director of the Ocean’s trilogy and Traffic has never touched—pure horror. 30 years into his filmmaking career, Soderbergh is still challenging himself, while creating some of his best work to date. - Marcelo Pico

Read our full Unsane review here.


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You Were Never Really Here

The first film to be released from director Lynne Ramsay since 2011's We Need to Talk About Kevin, but certainly worth the wait. Told with minimalistic flair and sparse exposition, it's makes for a beautiful, yet ugly masterpiece of emotion and suspense. As Joe, a man who excels in rescuing kidnapped children, Joaquin Phoenix brings a strong sense of both mental and physical intensity in the lead role, that easily ranks among his greatest performances. Coupled with another fantastic score from Jonny Greenwood and breathtaking cinematography from Thomas Townend, and running at a brisk 95 minutes, You Were Never Really Here is a must-see film experience. - Rob Trench

Read our full You Were Never Really Here review here.


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