December 2018 Mini-Reviews – First Man to Shadow of the Thin Man

So, here we are.  2018 is over, and we’re well into 2019 (!) already.  I watched fewer movies in 2018 than I did in 2017, but still viewed far more movies than most — 39 movies in December, 475 films in all of 2018.

A variety of life changes/issues slowed me down in 2018, and some of those are persisting into 2019.  (Though it could be that 2017, when I started counting, was just a record year.)

As of this writing, I expect to view fewer films this year than last… But who knows?  Bingeing TV series definitely cuts down on viewing, too.  This is the “trouble” with Peak TV.  (Where there’s so much good stuff available that you can’t watch it all.)

In any case, here’s how 2018 wrapped up.  Enjoy!

(And let me know if I should collect the whole into one mega-post — which I talked about but never did last year, either.)

Ratings are out of five stars. Here’s what those stars mean to me…

* – This film is not good. Avoid it unless you tolerate dreck well.
** – A flawed film. You may enjoy it if you like this genre or the folks in it.
*** – A good solid film. If you like this genre, you’ll probably like this film.
**** – A superior film within its genre. Thoroughly enjoyable.
***** – An outstanding film on many levels. A great example of its genre.

First Man **** Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong in biopic that focuses on the lonely, dark side of heroic moon astronaut & wife.
Mac and Me (MST3K version) **** Jonah & the bots add fun and sass — and at least 2 stars — to this goofy ET rip-off. Lots of practical effects work.
Crack-Up *** Pat O’Brien is an art expert convinced he was in a train crash that no one else remembers. Good noir suspense.
Trial of Billy Jack, The *** 3rd Billy Jack film packs surprising violence into it’s anti-government-violence message. Sadly relevant today.
Doctor Strange (animated) *** Emphasis is on action in this cartoon that falls somewhere between the comics origin & the (later) live film. Fun.
Dracula (1931 Lugosi – Glass Score) blu-ray **** Atmosphere thick, great sets & camera work, despite static story. Colin Clive & Lugosi are classics. Score okay.
Dracula (1931 Spanish) blu-ray **** Almost every thing about Latin American Dracula is as good or better than the American, but no Clive or Lugosi!
It’s a Gift **** WC Fields is badgered husband & father who only wants to sell his store & buy a Californial orange grove. Funny.
Cat Creature, The *** David Heddison gets wrapped up in looking for a killer cat creature connected to an Egyptian amulet. Fun TV flick.
Werewolf of London (blu-ray) **** Some great scenes & interesting take on the werewolf legend, plus a nice proto-wolfman makeup. Good on blu.
Dracula’s Daughter (blu-ray) **** Moody & atmospheric with great, creepy performance by Gloria Holden, plus Van Helsing returns. Minor classic.
She-Wolf of London (blu-ray) *** Handsome production with June Lockhart fearing that she’s victim of a family curse. Good suspense, trick ending.
Strange Cargo **** Crawford & Gable as prostitute & con trying to escape jungle prison. Other prisoners & Peter Lorre add fun twists.
Most Dangerous Game, The ***** Precursor production to King Kong is a lean, thrilling adventure picture with McCray & Wray being hunted by nut.
Island of Lost Women ** Alan Napier (Alfred) is recluse (mad) atomic scientist with 3 beautiful daughters when 2 flyers crash on his island.
Billy Jack Goes to Washington *** Like Mr. Smith before him, Billy Jack goes to Washington… with similar results & only a touch of ass-kicking.
Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, The **** Even edited for Comet, this film retains its wacky charm & great cast & a fave score & end credits sequence.
Atlantic Rim (MST3K) *** Even Jonah & the bots can’t save this knock-off. It has some interesting moments & characters, but no script.
House on Skull Mountain ***  Descendants of a voodoo queen in a ten-little-indians-like plot, dying one by one to see who’s worthy of legacy.
Lords of the Deep **** Jonah & the Bots add 2 stars to this slow-moving Abyss-type film with decent cast of sturdy TV actors & Corman.
You Never Can Tell *** Poisoned army dog comes back as a detective to solve his own murder, with a race-horse as his secretary. Fun.
Moon of the Wolf *** Southern town is terrorized by a werewolf. David Jansen heads a strong cast of TV vets in this movie of the week.
Babes in Toyland **** Laurel & Hardy star in a wild storybook fantasy with evil villains & an invasion of vile bogeys vs. wooden soldiers.
Son of Dracula *** Chaney is okay as the count, but there’s enough cool/creepy stuff in this flick that with Bela it would have ruled.
Scream of the Wolf *** Peter Graves & Clint Walker are old friends who square off over recent differences in Dan Curtis’ werewolf hunt.
Godzilla vs. Megaguirus *** A strong female lead & some interesting sequences & ideas make up for occasionally ropey SFX for good G-fun.
Bringing Up Baby ***** Cary Grant is a paleontologist & Kathryn Hepburn a mad heiress in brilliant screwball comedy about a pet leopard.
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House **** Cary Grant & Myrna Loy as city couple who buy a “fixer-upper” property in the country that’s a money pit. Funny.
Smokey & the Bandit *** Burt Reynolds & Sally Field have a blast in this classic action-comedy smuggling Coors east of the Mississippi.
Scrooge (A Christmas Carol) 1951 ***** Alistair Sim cannot be improved upon as Scrooge in this, the best production of the book ever made or likely to be.
Pitfall **** Dick Powell & Lisabeth Scott have a 1-night-stand that causes a jealous rival to incite a cycle of violence & death.
Return of Mary Poppins **** Part homage, part sequel, all fun with great cast & strong music & production, proving sequels can beat remakes.
Aquaman **** Jason Momoa has charisma to spare as the half-breed “bastard” sea king out to save Atlantis & the surface world.
Timeless – Series Finale Movie **** Great send-off to a great SF series with several unexpected twists and turns & good comeuppance & payoffs.
Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore *** Low-budget relationship drama focused on sex looks more 70s than 90s, but is an admirable slice-of-life effort.
Venom *** Tom Hardy & co. are good in this take on the popular Marvel villain, but mostly it’s kinda silly action fun.
Hard Day’s Night, A ***** The Beatles are funny & “real” in made to resemble a “day in the life” documentary but actually cleverly scripted.
Quiet Place, A *** If you can ignore the flaws in the premise (humans can make no noise), an interesting monster suspense film.
Shadow of the Thin Man **** Nick & Nora are wrapped up in a racetrack, gambling, & murder mysteries. Another fine & funny entry in the set.

So… Ended with a Thin Man movie, which is not unusual, as TCM often shows them on New Year’s Eve — and they’re a great series. TCM showed them earlier in the day this time, though, so we had to play it from DVR to finish out.  But always a fun way to end the year.

What will 2019 hold in store?  Will I be able to hit 30 films a month while my mom is living with us?  Tune in in February 2019 for January’s recap!

Remember, you can support this and all my other writing work, including Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors and Frost Harrow and more, by joining my Patreon for a buck or two a month.  Thanks!

About Steve Sullivan 420 Articles
Stephen D. Sullivan is an award-winning author, artist, and editor. Since 1980, he has worked on a wide variety of properties, including well-known licenses and original work. Some of his best know projects include Dungeons & Dragons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dragonlance, Iron Man, Legend of the Five Rings, Speed Racer, the Tolkien RPG, Disney Afternoons, Star Wars, The Twilight Empire (Robinson's War), Uncanny Radio, Martian Knights, Tournament of Death, and The Blue Kingdoms (with his friend Jean Rabe).