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So, this year, instead of doing tissue-thin top and bottom lists of films I saw this year, I decided to just make one long list with every film I saw that was released in 2018. Incidentally, if you don’t see a film on this list, it’ll be because I didn’t see it… obviously. I’m honestly kinda surprised at how many films I saw this year, given that I was both dirt poor and offensively busy with graduating and then immediately jumping back into higher education. Some of these films, I actually have very little to say regarding… but, hey, we’ll roll with it.
The first movie I wanna talk about is, easily, the worst film I ended up seeing this year, objectively speaking. Venom was an utter embarrassment to both the superhero genre and filmmaking in general. While not as actively abhorrent as The Mummy from last year, it’s certainly the least competent film I saw this year. A film later in the list will do the whole “predator stuck inside a normal dude’s brain” shtick much better, though that’s not particularly hard. With that said… This movie is hilarious. I had a whale of a time watching this movie in the cinema and I’m certainly not above turning my brain off and just enjoying some shit. Now, don’t misunderstand me; Venom is shit. But I actually find I liked it more than…
A Star is Born was an excessively manipulative wank-fantasy to watch Bradley Cooper emphasise how talented he is. I like Bradley Cooper, I’m glad we’re agreed he seems like a cool guy, but his direction of this film is absolutely mediocre. Pedestrian. Run of the mill. The story constantly paints his character out as some sort of wounded warrior and I really didn’t buy it. Lady Gaga was incredible but she can’t save an unlikeable lead and pretty frustrating writing. I REALLY wanted it to be good but, alas, I really didn’t like this film. This was, without question, my least favourite movie of the year, and it can thank its lucky stars Venom was so objectively poorly made.
We’ve had the worst made film, and my least favourite film, so the only one left is my most disappointing film. Incredibles 2 was tragic. Watching it in the cinema was like watching something you love get burned right in front of you. With a plot that stops and starts three times, it feels like three potential sequel ideas for Incredibles merged together into one. And it really shows. This film isn’t poorly made, by any stretch, but it is soulless and forgettable. Pixar NEED to get themselves out of whatever rut they’re clearly in, because after Coco, this is a huge step back. It felt like a business decision – “Superheroes are popular, we have superheroes, let’s make a movie” and it feels that way so much so, that I’m not convinced I saw the real Incredibles 2.
One thing I definitely saw, was Illumination’s Grinch. Because the humour was bland and pretty pathetic. What saves this film, to me, is my favourite depiction of the Grinch in cinema. A nice mix between sympathetic, likeable and dickish. The substory with the kids is utter tripe and there are embarrassing attempts at forced humour you may expect from an Illumination picture, but again, I really did warm to this depiction of the Grinch. And, honestly, I prefer it to the Jim Carrey Grinch, if we’re talking solely based on the characters.
Probably worth mentioning that I watch a lot of these movies at the end of the year, where I have more free time and movie rentals get cheaper and cheaper. This is how I experienced Game Night, the “dark comedy” which honestly isn’t actually all that dark. It has some gigglesome lines, but for a dark comedy, I’d have liked it to push the envelope a bit more. Also, the fake Irish accent one of the characters uses is both poor and distracting. Is this movie bad? …Eh, I dunno about that, but it’s certainly not great. I’d be surprised if I’m quoting this film later down the line, unless I’m playing around with an Irish accent.
Final Score is a film based around the premise of “what if Die Hard, but at a London football stadium”? Any film which draws comparisons to Die Hard is putting itself in a very unfortunate position and, sure enough, Final Score doesn’t reach that high calibre of film. Dave Bautista isn’t as likeable as Bruce Willis, the villains aren’t nearly as memorable as the Gruber Gang, and the film takes itself so seriously that it has basically no personality, with the exception of Faisal. His character is what I’ll remember – immediately sympathetic and likeable; to stick with the Die Hard comparisons, he’s like if Argyle was actively helping McClane. The action is palpable and the film has a surprising amount of balls for some genuinely disturbing deaths. Is it bad? Nope, I don’t think so. There’s definitely enough cheesy fun to be had with some of the overly ridiculous action scenes, but there’s just not enough personality to make this film something I’ll remember. Except for the fight in the kitchen – that scene kicks arse.
On the subject of “movies with football as an under-pinning narrative point”, let’s talk about another animated movie, next – Early Man, the latest Claymation vehicle from the geniuses at Aardman. And… yeah, it’s alright. Not bad. Charming and full of subtle and dry British humour (shoutout to the caveman called ASBO), but probably the blandest and least interesting and inventive of the Aardman movies. It feels more like a British take on Flintstones than a fully unique, creative idea and, given the pedigree of these people, that’s a great shame. I dunno if part of it is that I’m not into football, or part of it is just the less creative setting which puts the humour and creative setpieces through the wringer a bit, but this was a pretty okay film. After watching Early Man, I went back to watch Pirates and it felt so much more fresh and creative, so I’d honestly recommend most of the other Aardman films over Early Man. Not bad, not great… just, alright. It’s probably on par with Final Score in terms of quality (in completely different ways, obviously), but it takes the edge for being more memorable thanks to its personality.
But now, we’re getting into movies which are pretty unambiguously recommendable (with one exception). It’s easy to recommend Hereditary for its effective theming, mise en scene and cinematography. But it wasn’t a film which stuck with me to the extent I would’ve liked. Might have something to do with everyone bigging this film up beyond reason, but it was just a solid, well-made movie. It’s probably best to go into this film knowing as little as possible, which is why I’m being so vague, but I also think it’s pretty pretentious. You have been warned.
Just in case you’re a fan of rather drastic shifts of tone, Deadpool 2 is genuinely quite funny. That’s about as far as I’ll go, unfortunately. As someone who genuinely did love the first film, the second wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as the first. Not sure if that was the point or not, but it’s not bad. This series is like the Jump Street series, in that 21 is excellent and 22 is still quite funny, but not as good. Definitely worth it, but not as good, can’t lie.
Okay, so this next one, I really wanted to like more than I did. But I didn’t. It was good, but unfortunately not a huge mindblowing experience as I would’ve hoped it was. Black Panther was a good film let down primarily by the fact that a Black Panther movie was basically already done as a subplot in Civil War. The world it creates is interesting and the characters are likeable, but a movie about Black Panther doesn’t have an interesting story about Black Panther, which is a pretty glaring issue. But hey, what do I know? It’s definitely worth your time, and you might fall in love with it as much as everyone else did but, for me, not so much.
Now, as I stated earlier in this diatribe, there is a film better than Venom with a similar theme. That film is Upgrade. Somewhere in these two films is the recipe for the perfect of this kinda movies. Venom benefited from a pretty likeable “voice in the head”. Upgrade has the opposite; the shlubby everyman is likeable. It has a unique styling, some brilliant shots and excellent direction but it didn’t really click with me as much as I wanted it to. Most of the twists were rather inventive and the ending is bittersweet in a significantly less satisfying way than, say, La La Land’s bittersweet ending. It’s without question worth watching, though, and a bloody good time.
Let’s move onto what feels like the biggest film of the year – Avengers: Infinity War. Probably the most ambitious film of the year, definitely. It certainly succeeds in a lot of ways, but it also feels a little bloated and tough to roll with. It’s definitely a film you need to watch multiple times, so that might have something to do with my somewhat lukewarm response, but it’s worth it for the end game (AYYYYYYYYYY).
Now, for the top two movies. As tends to be the case with this sort of thing, the top two can be pretty interchangeable, but I’ve ordered them like this for rather long winded reasons. My second favourite film of this year, is Searching. Searching was a breath of fresh air, a creative missing person thriller, phenomenally well acted and captivating. I really loved this film… but I wish I loved it more. I wish there were a smidgen more tension. It’s more of a “sit-back mindful thriller” rather than a “lean-forward heart-pounding thriller” and, while that’s certainly not a bad thing inherently, it’s not what I personally would have liked to see from this film. Consider this review praise-by-omission, in that the film, outside of what I’m saying there, is really excellent. Just, not as excellent as…
Terminal. Now, I wanna have a little rant here, if I can. I’m not normally one to rail against critics, but honestly, the critics reaction to this was shameful and embarrassing. The fact that this film has a lower rating than Venom implies to me that there’s something genuinely wrong with critics following the money. The fact that this little under-the-radar movie which I rented for 99p about a week and a half before the end of the year turned out to be one of the most visually stunning, well-acted and captivating films I’ve seen in ages is a sign that, sometimes, these sort of things just work out.
I’m a total sucker for these neon-noir films, so the aethetic really speaks to me, and it reminds me a lot of the also-excellent Filth from a few years ago. Yeah, there are a few issues; the story based around the two assassins is not as inherently interesting as the other stories and it unfortunately has the most screen time through dint of being the more complex story but regardless, Terminal is my film of 2018, a pretty subpar year for movies in terms of it being all pretty mediocre or uninterestingly above average. Rent it for 99p, see what you think. Ignore the critics, make up your own mind. Because I did. And I’m really glad I did.