My Top 10 Most Notable Films of 2018

Apologies folks. While I am a little late in posting my list of movies for 2018, that’s pretty much what comes about when this entire blogging thing is technically a hobby and doesn’t actually put food on the table!

Regardless of the financial funk I currently find myself in, when looking back through my silver screen memories, it somewhat feels like 2018 has ended up being rather similar to the cinematic landscape of 2017.

  • Yet another controversial Star Wars film was released (The Last Jedi / Solo)
  • The ultimate superhero team-up imagined by millions over the past few decades was finally seen on the big screen. (Justice League / Infinity War)
  • A belated sequel to a classic movie based on a children’s book is released and thought to be quite good by critics and the masses alike. (Jumanji 2 / Mary Poppins Returns)
  • A musical adaptation of a real life figure(s) grossly misrepresents the historical record, but no one gives a damn because the music is so good. (The Greatest Showman / Bohemian Rhapsody)
  • A director that most people had written off makes a massive return to form with a low-budget crowdpleaser (M. Night Shymalan’s Split / Peter Farrelly’s Green Book)
  • A heavily Chinese-influenced movie starring a white man who’s way over his head, but still manages to save the world from monsters (The Great Wall / The Meg)

Despite the déjà vu, 2018 still had some gems. So, as is tradition for those of us in the film loving community, what follows is a list of films that I have found especially notable in the preceding 12 months of cinema.

As always, when trying to come to a decision my only rule was that the film had to have been released in UK cinemas between 1st January 2018 and 31st December 2018. So tough luck to films like Mary Queen of Scots, The Favourite, Beautiful Boy, Vice, and all the other awards favourites.

Special mentions: The Shape of Water, Journeyman, Darkest Hour, American Animals, Overlord, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, Mary Poppins Returns, The Mercy, The Final Year, Lady Bird, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Teen Titans Go To The Movies, A Star is Born, First Man, Bohemian Rhapsody.

Guilty Pleasures: Rampage, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Tag, Mama Mia: Here We Go Again, Venom, Truth or Dare.


1) Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

woody-harrelson-sam-rockwell-three-billboards-outside-ebbing-missouri
© 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved

From my original review:

(Director) McDonagh hits many of the same heights of his previous films. Dark and funny dialogue permeates almost every scene, with each actor managing to tread that fine line such a script would require. Without a doubt McDormand pulls this off best, with her character mostly earning the audience’s sympathy, even when her actions sometimes cross the line into more villainous territory.


2) Coco

coco_new
© 2017 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

From my original review:

Said journey is essentially a tale of culture clash, the unmovable traditions of old fighting to contain the burgeoning excitement and dreams of the young. It’s a story, not just familiar to those cultures with strong family ties, but also to anyone that has tried to fight the desire within to choose personal fulfillment over family commitment. As such, Coco doesn’t come off as a film just for families, but also a film about families. The struggles, the pain, the tears; but also the laughs, the hugs and the moments you treasure for years to come.


3) The Post

the-post-tom-hanks
© 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Storyteller Distribution Co. LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Despite Ready Player One making far more money, of the two Steven Spielberg films released this year, The Post stands as the superior piece of filmmaking. True, this is in part due to how resonant the topic of media outlets fighting against a dismissive government regime is in this day and age. But with sterling turns from both Hanks and Streep, The Post is a timely reminder how important it is to speak truth to power.


4) Avengers: Infinity War

thanos
© 2018 Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.

From my original review:

But do not fear, Marvel haven’t just made Schindler’s List. There are still jokes aplenty. Indeed one of the most joyful aspects of the movie is watching characters that have never met before interact with each other. As such seeing Iron-Man verbally spar with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch); Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) fighting back to back with Okoye (Danai Gurira); or even Thor (Chris Hemsworth) sharing a moment with Groot (Vin Diseal) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) make up some of the most thrilling moments of the movie.


5) Game Night

game night
© 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

On the surface Game Night looks like the usual piss-poor excuse to get a bunch of celebrities together in an inane attempt to try and pull off a comedy. Even the trailer (with the exception of one rib-tickling Rachel McAdams’ reaction) doesn’t really inspire much hope.

But when watching the movie, that low expectation gives way to what is actually a mad-cap adventure that brilliantly blends together a multitude of genres; all the while keeping the laughs at the forefront. Add in a heartfelt relationship within each of the three main couples, and you have one of the best comedies of the year.


6) A Quiet Place

a quiet place
© 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

From my original review:

But, of course, sound is the most notable aspect of this feature; and it’s here that supervising sound editors, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn, have absolutely outdone anything released so far this year, and likely for the remainder of 2018. From the quietude of footsteps, breathing and panting, to the thunder of screams and monster roars; each sound has been appropriated to wring the maximum amount of tension. It is an absolute masterclass of sound editing and a guaranteed Oscar nomination come 2019.


7) Searching

searching
© 2018 Sundance Institute. All Rights Reserved.

From my original review:

Rather than the racial subversion in that Jordan Peele classic, Chaganty instead explores the more widely identifiable struggle of parental helplessness in the face of teenage rebellion. And much of the heavy lifting in portraying that struggle lies with who he has cast in the lead role. Without a doubt this is one of John Cho’s strongest performances to date; his role as a panicked father drawing us along with every painful minute he must suffer. Despite the film not technically being a one-man show, it’s hard not to compare what he does to similarly brilliant solo outings, such as Tom Hardy in Locke, or Ryan Reynolds in Buried.


8) A Simple Favour

A Simple Favour
© 2018 Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.

From my original review:

Of course such friendship is only so mesmerising due to the brilliant chemistry between its leading ladies. Though both do well, it’s Lively that comes out on top. Foul-mouthed and straight-up not giving a fuck, Lively dominates like no other, tearing through each of her scenes with reckless abandon. If anything she could easily give her real-life husband, Ryan Reynolds, a run for his Deadpool money.


9) Ralph Breaks The Internet

Ralph_Breaks_The_Internet_50
© 2018 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Despite my minor disappointment in the move away from videogaming, the sequel to 2015’s Wreck-It-Ralph makes up for said move by becoming a love letter to the internet and all its pop-culture relevance. Not only is the concept of the internet brilliantly brought to life, mainly through an assortment of Mii-lookalikes pottering around multiple real-life tech organisations. But the filmmakers take great pains to push forward and develop the core duo, thus avoiding the trap most sequels fall into by merely putting their characters in a new location, repeating the beats of the original, and then calling it a day.


10) One Cut of the Dead

one cut of the dead
CREDIT: Courtesy of Frightfest Film Festival 2018.

From my original review:

Though mostly an intense death spree, writer/director Shin’ichirô Ueda also injects a strong thread of comedy throughout, especially through Hamatsu’s onscreen director, whose rants and raves makes David O. Russell look sane. But it’s not just the zombie genre that the film pokes fun at. The overbearing director, the demanding movie star, the bored crew member. The film almost acts as a social commentary on the stresses and strains of movie-making.


Hope everyone has a good 2019!

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Licenced under Creative Commons CC0 / Pixabay

 

Review: A Quiet Place (2018) – Silence Makes For Cinematic Gold

The nature of being an aspiring screenwriter is that you have to read a lot of scripts. A LOT of scripts. Most of them tend to be older movies (or early drafts of older movies), and some of them drafts of a project never made. But every so often I receive a script for a film that’s currently in production and usually planned to be released in the next 12-18 months.

A Quiet Place was one such example. Having received the script in late 2017, what caught my attention was that it only ran 67 pages. For those of you not in the know, a movie script traditionally runs one page for every minute of screentime; so 120 pages will clock in at around two hours. But 67 pages means we’re talking about a film that barely tips over an hour. Why on earth would anyone agree to bring such a bare-bones script to the big screen?

So I settled down to read it. And to say I was blown away by page nine would not come close to truly describing how utterly awesome the opening of the script was. And as I continued it was clear this would be a film that would have to be included on my list of most anticipated films of 2018.

But the version of the script I read (written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods) would later be rewritten by director John Krasinski. As director he probably made numerous changes on-set too. So the million dollar question is… Is the final product as engaging and exciting as the script I read?

Short Answer: No.

Long Answer: No, because it’s a fuck-ton better.

a quiet place poster.jpg

The year is 2020 and society has been decimated. Strange monsters roam the world, hunting and killing humans. But these violent creatures, being blind, can only hunt their prey through sound.

Lee Abbott (John Krasinski), along with his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), lives deep in the countryside. Cut off from the rest of humanity, they struggle to teach their two children, Regan and Marcus (Millicent Simmonds & Noah Jupe), how to live in this new world. Together they learn new approaches and techniques that allow them to survive without needing to make a sound.

But there’s a problem… Evelyn is pregnant.

And so the challenge begins. How do you give birth to and raise a baby in a world where the slightest sound means death?


A Quiet Place choosing to tell its story without dialogue isn’t all that original when you think about it. After all, for decades all movies were completely silent. And more recent movies, like 2011’s Best Picture Oscar winner, The Artist; or last year’s The Red Turtle, show that this method of storytelling is still quite relevant. But like most great movies, it’s not the idea, but rather the execution. And it’s here that Krasinski, in his triple role as co-writer, director and star, absolutely excels.

Though only his third directorial feature (and his first horror), the skill Krasinski shows onscreen is one of a seasoned legend. For example, in a film where all information has to be presented visually, Krasinski knows exactly how long the camera has to linger, and yet doesn’t keep it so long that irritation sets in.

Credit must also be given to his casting choices, specifically the decision to cast an actual deaf actress as his daughter. Also, while casting his real-life wife in the supporting lead may smack of nepotism, how can you complain when it’s someone as accomplished as Emily Blunt? Her role, though supporting, is nonetheless just as important. Indeed, while Blunt and Krasinski’s characters imbue the classical traits of protective father and emotive mother, the mastery of the script allows the actors certain scenes to occupy the others’ traditional characteristics.

But, of course, sound is the most notable aspect of this feature; and it’s here that supervising sound editors, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn, have absolutely outdone anything released so far this year, and likely for the remainder of 2018. From the quietude of footsteps, breathing and panting, to the thunder of screams and monster roars; each sound has been appropriated to wring the maximum amount of tension. It is an absolute masterclass of sound editing and a guaranteed Oscar nomination come 2019.

In fact, there’s a little bit in me that would suggest maybe the cinema isn’t even the best location to experience A Quiet Place. With silence such an integral part of the adventure, even the slight sound of rustling sweet packets, crunching popcorn or even light breathing can be hugely distracting. So if you happen to have a soundproof panic room on hand, perhaps watch the movie in there?

But despite the fantastic mergering of sound and image, the one downside would be the CGI effects. While the design of the monstrous creature is appropriately disturbing, invoking shades of the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise; the actual effects themselves don’t quite blend in with the surrounding environment. It’s hard to say, but perhaps a physical puppet would have made for a better choice.


While not as socially ground-breaking as last year’s Get Out, A Quiet Place is still a film that treads new territory, as well as successfully exploring the emotional fallout when the desire for normality clashes against the constant peril of death.

Without question this film should be considered one of the most original and well-executed horror films released this side of the millennium.

Overall Score:

five-stars

Photo Sources: Official Site, Official Facebook,

Some of My Most Anticipated Movies of 2018 (Part One)

When it comes down to it, 2018 might legitimately have a nuclear war started by a rogue tweet. And after millions are dead, the war would undoubtedly end with the fall of American exceptionalism, the destruction of nearly 80 years of American political dominance, and would probably result in the rise of a Chinese-led empire.

I, however, prefer to keep things light and fluffy. And I choose to do that by sticking my head in the sand and asking myself: “Hmmmm, I wonder what’s good at the cinema this year?”


Early Man

Early-Man-Valley
© 2017 Studiocanal S.A.S. and the British Film Institute. All Rights Reserved.

What’s it about?Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures and woolly mammoths roamed the earth, Early Man tells the story of Dug, along with sidekick Hognob as they unite his tribe against the mighty enemy, Lord Nooth and his Bronze Age City, to save their home.

A fun way to kick off the year will be the newest release from the minds that brought us Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. Though critically and box office-wise, Aardman Animations have been hit or miss, I’ve always found them to be great storytellers and excellent purveyors of British comedy.


The God Particle

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What’s it about?After a scientific experiment aboard the space station involving a particle accelerator has unexpected results, the astronauts find themselves isolated. Following their horrible discovery, the space station crew must fight for survival.

A holdover from my 2017 list, The God Particle was revealed to be a secret Cloverfield 3. Even though the worldwide release is meant to be 30 days from now (Feb 2nd), there’s been no sign of a trailer, poster or any other form of advertising. I’m still not sure which title it’ll even be released under!

But with the insanely good cast of David Oyelowe, Daniel Brühl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Elizabeth Debicki, I’m sure we’ll get a damn good sci-fi film.

[UPDATE 3/1/18: Slashfilm now report that the film has been pushed back to March]


The New Mutants

the new mutants

What’s it about?Five young mutants, just discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will, fight to escape their past sins and save themselves.

Across Hollywood there are arguably only four actual cinematic universes: Marvel, DC, Star Wars and X-men. While it’s indisputable that Marvel are the top dogs, there might be some debut as to who is second.

I, however, am of the opinion that second place belongs to Fox and their X-men universe. Mainly because of the risks they are willing to take. In Logan we recieved a haunting tale of an old, useless superhero in the old west; while Deadpool took that R-rating and ran with it like no other film before.

And in The New Mutants, the choice to take the horror approach is just as exciting and suggests there are plenty of new avenues for the X-men franchise to explore.


White Boy Rick

white boy rick
© 2018 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved

What’s it about?The true story of teenager Richard Wershe Jr., who became an undercover informant for the FBI during the 1980s, and was ultimately arrested for drug-trafficking and sentenced to life in prison.

While stories about a normal individual becoming an undercover informant for the FBI have been somewhat done to death; what if said informant was only 14 years old?

That apparently is the true story of Richard Wershe Jr. (played by Richie Merritt, not Matthew McConaughey, despite the above photo!) A young boy caught up in events far beyond his control, this sounds like an amazing new approach to the crime/thriller genre.


Alpha

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What’s it about?A story of survival and friendship between a young boy and a wild wolf set 20,000 years ago during the last Ice Age.

Here’s the thing. While I am looking forward to this movie, me buying a ticket depends entirely on the direction they take it. Will it be like Apocalypto? A stunning cinematic achievement, unafraid to ignore long-held assumputions of what would be paletable to a modern-day audience. Or will it be like 10,000 BC? In other words, yet another big budget blockbuster with a stunted excuse for a script?


Every Day

every day

What’s it about? : A shy teenager falls for someone who transforms into another person every day

Based on the novel of the same name by David Levithan, Every Day has the weird premise of a girl starting a relationship with a boy whose (soul?) jumps into multiple bodies.

Maybe it’ll be the next Fault in our Stars. Maybe it won’t. Either way, at least it’s a decent attempt at original(ish) sci-fi.


A Tale of Two Coreys

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What’s it about?The story of teen heartthrobs Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, whose lives were forever changed by the glitz, glamour, and the darker side of show business.

The world lost a great actor when Corey Haim tragically died of pneumonia at age 38 in 2010. While I am really looking forward to seeing what seems to be a very personal story, as it’s a technically a TV movie, I suppose the darker aspects of these two boys lives might be overlooked. Nonetheless, I’m sure it’ll be an interesting look at the rise and fall of two of Hollywood’s heartthrobs.


Born a King

What’s it about? : A true coming-of-age story about Faisal, a 14 year old teenage Arab prince, who is dispatched from Arabia to London by his father on a high stakes diplomatic mission to secure the formation of his country.

Like the above White Boy Rick, Born a King arguably has a story that has been done to death, but this time stars a 14 year old boy.

Not only that, but the film has a lot riding on it, being that it is (according to the producers) the first ever western film project to have shot in Saudi Arabia; and will also be the first film Saudi Arabian audiences will see after the 35-year cinema ban is lifted this March.

So no pressure guys.


First Man

first man
© 2018 Universal Studios and Storyteller Distribution Co. LLC

What’s it about?A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

Fresh off La La Land, Damien Chazelle takes a hard left into biographical territory with a new film about Neil Armstrong. It’s difficult to say if there’s anything new to be told about the story of the first man on the moon. After nearly 50 years, surely all the stories have been told by now?

It’ll be interesting to see if Chazelle’s directing skill extends to the non-musical, but at least he’ll have the familiar face of Ryan Gosling in the lead role to help him out.


Replicas

replicas

What’s it about?A scientist becomes obsessed with bringing back his family members who died in a traffic accident.

This might be the only film in my life that I want to see purely because the trailer was so utterly confusing! Yes, Keanu Reeves loses his family in a car crash, that much I got.

But the trailer suggests that he brings them back through cloning, then robotic implantation, and then VR interactions. Gotta give the filmmakers credit for throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick!


The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

the man who killed

What’s it about?An advertising executive jumps back and forth in time between 21st century London and 17th century La Mancha, where Don Quixote mistakes him for Sancho Panza.

Has any other film had such a prolonged journey to the silver screen? I mean, pre-production technically started in 1998, and over the next 17 years the production would collapse 8 times!

So it must have been a sigh of relief when director Terry Gilliam announced on 4th June 2017 that filming has finally been completed. I can’t wait to see what Gilliam has in store for us.


Mute

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What’s it about?A mute bartender goes up against his city’s gangsters in an effort to find out what happened to his missing partner.

The second holdover from my 2017 list, it’ll be good to see what Duncan Jones has up his sleeve in his first film after the disaster that was Warcraft (though, interestingly, it’s still the highest grossing video game movie of all time).

According to Jones himself, he sees this film as a spiritual sequel to 2009’s Moon. It’s only a shame that it’s now a Netflix exclusive, meaning getting to watch it on the big screen will be all the more difficult.


On the Basis of Sex

on the basis of sex
© 2018 Storyteller Distribution Co. LLC. All Rights Reserved.

What’s it about?The story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her struggles for equal rights and what she had to overcome in order to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

Felicity Jones absolutely deserves this chance at a high profile lead (Yes, I know she’s done Star Wars!). But since she usually plays wives, girlfriends and mothers; it’ll be good to see her take on such a strong role in American political history. Hopefully she’s got her American accent down!


The Professor and the Madman

professor and the madman

What’s it about? : Professor James Murray begins work compiling words for the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in the mid 19th century. However, he soon receives over 10,000 entries from a patient at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Dr William Minor.

While I am looking forward to this film, I don’t hold out much hope for it making an appearance on the big screen. Having been shot in 2016, the film has unfortunately been mired in legal trouble, preventing it from being released.

It’s all the more unfortunate because, in an interesting twist, the full script is available online due to it needing to be submitted as an exhibit in a legal case. Having read the screenplay (and assuming the final film sticks fairly close to it), I think The Professor and the Madman could be one of the most entertaining films of 2018.


A Quiet Place

a quiet place
© 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

What’s it about?A family lives an isolated existence in utter silence, for fear of an unknown threat that follows and attacks at any sound.

I’m not really a huge fan of the horror genre, but this truly sounds exceptional. A film where a family must stay in utter silence because a supernatural evil is attracted to sound? And the mother is pregnant? Talk about a ticking time bomb! It’s like Speed if it was a horror film!


Life Support

life support

What’s it about? : A manic Roman Catholic family prepare for the death of their dying patriarch

Wow, now I haven’t seen Brian Dennehy on screen since I saw him in one episode of The West Wing. I honestly thought he was dead! Thank god he isn’t because this looks like a film that promises to bring out Dennehy’s sarcastic side. Add in strong support from Lesley Ann Warren and J.K. Simmons, and I can only imagine it’ll be fun for all the family!


Journeyman

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What’s it about? : After boxer Matty Burton suffers a serious head injury during a fight, he must deal with the impact this has on his marriage, his life and and his family.

This wasn’t on my radar at first, but a friend of mine was lucky enough to see an early screening and, based on his raving, this might be the film to watch out for.

Paddy Considine is absolutely the main man here. His directorial debut back in 2011 was Tyrannosaur, a film that would go on to win the BAFTA and earn critical acclaim.

Now in Journeyman, he returns as writer, director and lead actor in what could give him his BAFTA hat-trick.


Avengers: Infinity War

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What’s it about?The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

And we come to the daddy of 2018. Coming 10 years after Iron Man and with a confirmed cast of at least 30 main characters from across the previous 18 Marvel movies, Avengers: Infinity War might legitimately be the biggest film ever made. Brace yourselves people.


Click here for Some of My Most Anticipated Movies of 2018 (Part Two)