Staff Picks 2018: Most Underrated
There’s nothing more frustrating than talking to somebody who just doesn’t get it, someone who brushes greatness aside because of some ridiculous bias. That’s a bit dramatic, but basically what we’re trying to say is that some people just need to chill and enjoy these movies. They are the misunderstood and unfairly maligned— the most underrated movies of 2018.
Not that this film was a total knockout, but I appreciated it in ways I wasn't expecting to... (hence its placement in this category). Christopher Robin was the unexpected deviation from the Disney formula that I was expecting from Mary Poppins Returns but instead found in the depressed, empty forest of the Hundred Acre Wood. Long story short: Christopher Robin wasn't afraid to be a dark children’s film. The film is bathed in dark, bleak colors, and features a cold, anonymous London background. Adult Christopher Robin (played Ewan McGregor) is not only a man who has forgotten what it’s like to be a child, but has also lost his sense of purpose. He is depressed, and his depression affects his own mental health as well as his family’s. For a movie about a talking teddy bear, the pain behind this story is incredibly real. Mary Poppins Returns, which deals with similar themes of lost innocence, fails to dig any deeper, or show any of the real consequences of what it means to lose your sense of self. Favoring a glossier approach to the same topic, Poppins never quite penetrates the skin, or makes you tear up, in the way Christopher Robin does. Though all this darkness may seem strange in a children’s movie, it’s actually quite refreshing. It’s something that feels honest, that digs into your skin in an uncomfortable way, but makes you feel whole again when you see the hopeful smile plastered on Pooh’s snuggly yellow fur. —Emily Figueroa
Paterno has not been discussed by many since its early 2018 release, possibly because it’s an HBO film. But I felt that the film took considerable care to investigate and expose not only Joe Pa’s, but all of the members of Penn State’s, roles in the atrocities that occurred there. In a film that’s part character study and part investigatory, director Barry Levinson and actor Al Pacino search, and answer, exactly what Paterno knew, when he knew it, and what he did with that information. Sobering yet extremely compassionate, the performances, direction, careful attention to detail, and desire to show all angles of each character should have, in my opinion, made Paterno an awards contender. —Michael Murphy
Maybe I have a soft spot for Sam Rockwell, but his commitment to this bonehead, buddy-cop character somewhat saved Blue Iguana from being trashy pulp (critic’s words, not mine). The humor is definitely rude— if you don’t like cheap laughs (think SNL’s kissing family skit) this movie isn’t for you. But you can feel Rockwell and co-star Phoebe Fox having fun. His gusto for filmmaker Hadi Hajaig's gags is infectious, even if those gags can be a little obnoxious. —Bessie Rubenstein
One of the most underrated movies of 2018 is Tully, the story of a woman struggling to balance her hectic life after having another baby. Her solution: hiring a night nanny. I thought this movie was amazing because it discussed a topic that few people recognize; the reality of postpartum depression. Charlize Theron’s character, Marlo, faces the difficulties of raising children, making time for her marriage, and taking care of herself. This condition is real life for so many women, so I think a lot of them can relate to this movie. But beyond just being relatable, Tully is deeply emotional, moving, and even eye-opening. Viewers will leave Tully with a newfound appreciation for mothers everywhere. —Emma Steiner
I never understood the hate behind Blockers. Maybe it’s the kitschy title, or maybe it’s the concept, but either way it’s ridiculous to me that people judged this film without watching it. If people actually took the time to see Blockers, they would be treated to the best studio comedy since Bridesmaids. Blockers is a hilarious romp that focuses on three parents who go to great lengths to stop their teen daughters from losing their virginities on prom night. I love everything about this movie. The film’s script is both hilarious and well-structured, perfectly utilizing a parallel plot technique to show both sides of the conflict. Director Kay Cannon also deserves credit for suggesting rewrites on the script (which was written by men) to address feminist themes and more accurately portray the film’s female characters. That brings us to the true diamond at the core of Blockers— its cast. Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and (holy shit he’s funny) John Cena make up the trio of parents, while relative newcomers Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon, and (holy shit she’s funny) Geraldine Viswanathan portray their children. The reason why Blockers is so funny is because its cast is so good at what they do. The trailers may not have showcased this point as well as they could have, but Mann, Barinholtz, and Cena are not just talking heads for great dialogue. They play interesting and flawed characters who each have different arcs when it comes to their relationships with their children. Not only is Blockers funny, it’s heartfelt and honest. It’s a movie that has something to say. But even if that’s not your thing, Blockers is still so freaking funny! I haven’t laughed this hard in a movie since Phantom Thread (arguably the best comedy of the 2010s, but I won’t get into that now), and I attribute that to the cast. A great studio comedy is rare in today’s day in age, and while everyone else was marveling at how Game Night was “actually a good movie,” I was rewatching Blockers, because it’s freaking great. Was this explanation of the merits of 2018’s Blockers more of a rant? Yes, but some movies are just worth ranting over. And Blockers is one of them. —David Merkle
To check out our upcoming Staff Picks— including Most Overrated, Worst Movie of the Year, and Best Movie Nobody Saw— check the Staff Picks 2018 page under the Opinion tab!