Happy New Year! Look for "Aquaman" to once again drown the competition. Only one new release is taking on the superhero. The aim of "Escape Room" is basic: solve the puzzle or die. Six young strangers are lured to a building with the promise of winning a million bucks and find themselves in an elaborate maze of deadly traps.
Columbia Pictures - Rated PG-13
Now's a great time to look back at the best of last year. Here's my list. See if you agree!
BEST FILMS OF 2018
I just can't let this one go. A young injured rodeo cowboy charts his future without the possibility of the sport that defines him. Based on the lead's own life story, it doesn't get more authentic. Director Chloe Zhao proves it doesn't take millions to make a masterpiece.
LEAVE NO TRACE
Another small but brilliant movie. Ben Foster plays a veteran living off the grid with his daughter. When they're forced back into society, it drives a rift between them. Newcomer Thomasin McKenzie is one to watch in this engaging film.
"Gravity" director Alfonso Cuaron grounds himself in a story about a domestic worker in Mexico City, based on his own boyhood experience. Providing his own magnificent black & white camera work, Cuaron shines the light on class struggles of the 1970s set against the familiarity of home.
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
Lynne Ramsey is another director who makes every shot count in this immersive drama. A career best by Joaquin Phoenix, he plays a damaged veteran who captures kids from predators but gets in deeper than expected.
'Hamilton's' Daveed Diggs and writing partner/poet Rafael Casal explore gentrification in their hometown of Oakland as Diggs' character has days remaining on probation. These guys are original, and their work is both stunning and entertaining.
A STAR IS BORN
Director/actor Bradley Cooper did the near impossible: pulled off yet another re-do of the classic, making it sing for the current generation, and you can't take your eyes off of him. Yes, the first half is stronger than the second, but add in Texas-tinged music and Lady Gaga, and it just works.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos turns 18th century British court life on its ear as an unstable Queen Anne becomes the royal pawn of two women. Olivia Coleman is Oscar-worthy as the queen, and Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are fierce female foes in this odd, sharp comedy.
Director Bo Burnham makes an indelible impression in his first feature, exploring a girl's final days as an eighth grader under the caring eyes of her single father. All the angst and awkwardness you'd expect, and an absolutely pure performance by Elsie Fisher.
A QUIET PLACE
Proving it doesn't take screams to scare, director/actor John Krasinski builds true terror around a world where speaking a word could trigger an attack from lurking monsters. Kudos to wife Emily Blunt (a.k.a. 'Mary Poppins') for giving birth in silence!
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Director Barry Jenkins follows up his Oscar-winning "Moonlighting" with the tragic love story of a young couple torn apart by false imprisonment. While not as strong as "Moonlighting," Jenkins creates moments of pure poetry, and a testament to the ties that bind family.
Also considered: BLACK PANTHER, THE CAKEMAKER, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? FIRST MAN, FIRST REFORMED, GREEN BOOK, SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD