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The year in movies so far: ‘Black Panther’ among best and brightest

Danai Gurira (from left), Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o and Florence Kasumba in "Black Panther." | Marvel Studios

Welcome, Wakanda.

Welcome to the Fictional Locale Hall of Fame, where we honor the most special, the most beloved, the most memorable and the most original places in movie history.

There’s Oz, of course. And Bedford Falls.

Hogwarts. Middle-Earth. Pandora, Narnia, Asgard, Wonderland, Coruscant, Naboo, Gotham City, Metropolis …

And now, Wakanda.

Forever!

We all knew “Black Panther” was going to be a big hit — but raise your hand if you thought it was going to be that big, i.e., a worldwide box office take of 1.346 billion dollars.

We all hoped it was going to be good — but it was better than good, thanks to the nomination-worthy direction by Ryan Coogler, the smart and funny and thrill-laden screenplay, and the amazing cast, led by new-generation stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright and Daniel Kaluuya, and stellar veterans Angela Bassett, Andy Serkis, Forest Whitaker and Martin Freeman.

Boseman’s T’Challa/Black Panther has joined the ranks of Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, Thor, Spider-Man and Captain America as a superhero for the ages.

But he is also a groundbreaking superhero. A superhero of color.

The success of “Black Panther” is the brightest, most uplifting movie story of 2018, and it leads my annual Mid-Term Report Card.

On the dark side — the evil, horrific, sickening dark side — there’s Harvey Weinstein, the onetime king of Hollywood, who in May was arraigned on charges of first- and third-degree rape and committing a sexual act in the first degree.

There are movie heroes, and there are real-life heroes — and the latter label applies to every individual who has come forward in the last year to call out Weinstein and others for their unconscionable behavior.

Let’s take a look at the best movies and worst movies of the year so far, the most pleasant surprises, the biggest disappointments, and of course, the inevitable “controversies” — from the overblown to the ridiculous to the idiotic.

And when I say “idiotic,” I’m talking about you, hateful “Star Wars” trolls.

The best movies of the year so far (in alphabetical order)

“Annihilation”

“Black Panther”

“Hereditary”

“Lean on Pete”

“Love, Simon”

“Ready Player One”

“Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado”

A biologist (Natalie Portman) investigates her husband’s disappearance in an environmental disaster zone in “Annihilation.” | Paramount Pictures/Skydance
A biologist (Natalie Portman) investigates her husband’s disappearance in an environmental disaster zone in “Annihilation.” | Paramount Pictures/Skydance

The worst movies of the year so far (in alphabetical order)

“Book Club”

“Fifty Shades Freed”

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

“Rampage”

“Tag”

How many times do we have to tell you: He has a very particular set of skills!

In “The Commuter,” Liam Neeson plays a former cop turned insurance salesman whose train ride home turns violent after he’s targeted as a dupe in an elaborate scheme.

Come on, movie villains. As we’ve learned from “Taken,” “Taken 2,” “Taken 3,” “Unknown,” “Non-Stop,” “Run All Night,” et al., whether Liam Neeson is taking a Plane, Train or Automobile, you do not want to mess with him.

Liam Neeson in “The Commuter.” | Lionsgate
Liam Neeson in “The Commuter.” | Lionsgate

Here’s an idea: see the movie, THEN critique it

A number of bloggers and Twitter critics ripped the Amy Schumer comedy “I Feel Pretty” — based on the trailer.

Legitimate points were made about the premise of the film, which has Schumer’s insecure character finding confidence only after she suffers a head injury that makes her believe she looks like a supermodel.

Still. The trailer isn’t the movie. And — SPOILER ALERT — the movie actually addressed the very issues raised by the critics in a humorous but thoughtful way.

I’m gonna stay with the guidelines I’ve used for the last quarter-century: First I’ll see the movie, then I’ll comment.

Renee (Amy Schumer) can’t believe what she sees in the mirror in “I Feel Pretty.” | STXfilms
Renee (Amy Schumer) can’t believe what she sees in the mirror in “I Feel Pretty.” | STXfilms

Unforgettable performances

Toni Collette, “Hereditary”

Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis, “Tully”

Melissa McCarthy, “Life of the Party”

Ethan Hawke, “First Reformed”

Joaquin Phoenix, “You Were Never Really Here”

Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, “Sicario 2”

Charlie Plummer, “Lean on Pete”

Claire Foy, “Unsane”

The cast of “Black Panther”

The cast of “Annihilation”

Toni Collette’s performance in “Hereditary,” as a disturbed dollhouse artist, is one of the year’s best. | A24
Toni Collette’s performance in “Hereditary,” as a disturbed dollhouse artist, is one of the year’s best. | A24

Unnecessary remakes you’ve already forgotten about

“Overboard,” “Tomb Raider,” “Death Wish.”

Quiet film makes big noise

The biggest surprise of the year: Director-co-writer-star John Krasinski’s tight and smart horror film “The Quiet Place,” produced on a budget of $17 million, has grossed $186 million domestically and a total of $326 million worldwide.

Well played, Jim Halpert!

I’m guessing Krasinski picked up a directing tip or two during his time on “The Office,” which boasts one of the greatest rosters of directors in TV history, including Amy Heckerling, Harold Ramis, Joss Whedon, Jon Favreau, Marc Webb, J.J. Abrams, Reginald Hudlin, Jason Reitman and Paul Feig (who helmed 14 episodes).

John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” has scared up $326 million worldwide. | Paramount Pictures
John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” has scared up $326 million worldwide. | Paramount Pictures

As unbreakable as the Titanic was unsinkable

There’s nothing so smug as the mercenary who shoots a giant, misunderstood beast with tranquilizers, shackles the creature in a cage and then walks away with a smirk, certain in the knowledge the animal won’t wake up for a long time — and when it does, good luck trying to bust loose from those unbreakable chains!

Yeah right. Whether it’s the mutant albino gorilla in “Rampage” or the genetically engineered dinosaurs in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” once the animals are awake and sufficiently agitated, they burst free from their cages as easily as an All-Pro linebacker running through a paper sign on “Monday Night Football.”

Is the same company manufacturing all those cages and chains? If so, they’re REALLY bad at it. I hope the mercenaries kept their receipts!

The oversized gorilla of “Rampage” couldn’t be tied down. | Warner Bros.
The oversized gorilla of “Rampage” couldn’t be tied down. | Warner Bros.

Speaking of freedom …

No more “Fifty Shades” movies! Woo-hoooooo!

Not even the Hubble Telescope could locate minds this small

Actress Kelly Marie Tran wiped her Instagram account after enduring months of harassment from a pathetic army of haters who despised her character of Rose Tico in “The Last Jedi.”

Tran wasn’t the first “Star Wars” cast member to be subjected to abuse from cowardly trolls. Before “The Force Awakens” was even released, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley were the targets of racist and sexist tweets and social media posts from mostly anonymous bullies who hide behind the keyboard and spew hatred while desperately trying to avoid confronting the sadness of their own lives.

I mean, come ON. These are MOVIES.

“Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson labeled the trolls “manbabies,” which, while accurate, is also an insult to men and to babies.

Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega of “The Last Jedi” were targeted by online trolls. | Lucasfilm
Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega of “The Last Jedi” were targeted by online trolls. | Lucasfilm