It’s hard to believe that it’s THAT time of year again. Time for the annual top ten list.
It seems to be getting harder to make these lists because I change my mind so often during the year. In 2017, the top film seemed to change almost monthly. I was sure that I’d never see a better film that year than the one I’d just seen and deemed to be awesome. Then, I’d see something else.
A good catalyst for my selection is the annual list for Starburst magazine. That’s then I have to get my brain in gear and organise my preferences. But even that isn’t the final version, as there are a couple of movies still to be seen after late November, when the list is due – and things can, and usually do change.
Ultimately, this is a personal list. It’s not a definitive list of what I think everybody MUST like and MUST watch. It’s a list of movies that made me smile, made me laugh out loud, amazed me, took my breath away or just plain entertained the hell out of me and took me away from real life for a couple of hours. I’ve juggled a lot of these, changed their positions as I tried honestly and frankly to answer whether this particular movie entertained me more than that one. But here we are – this is the final list I’ve arrived at. My top ten for 2018. And just for fun, as usual I’ve also included the three worst, least satisfying movies I saw in my opinion. Feel free to agree or disagree on the site’s Facebook page.
Enough talk, let’s get down to business with the hits.
10 – Kong: Skull Island
Trust me, I’m as surprised as anybody to see this at number ten. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that seeing the original King Kong on TV as a child basically nudged me on this path.
I had avoided all spoilers, but it was pretty apparent from the title that the film’s focus was on Skull Island, Kong’s home turf. I had therefore assumed that it was a prequel to King Kong, and that somehow an expedition had arrived there before Carl Denham and his film crew and were never seen again. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
It has NOTHING to do with King Kong and his capture and escape and last stand on the Empire State Building. This Kong belongs in the world of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla and is a set up for an eventual meeting and a rumble, as strongly hinted at in the film’s sting.
On release, there were complaints that Kong was introduced too early, but I disagree. The awesome physical power of the giant ape was explored in full as he took on and decimated a squadron of helicopter gunships. The creatures inhabiting the island were incredible. There wasn’t one single wasted second in the whole film.
9 – Batman & Harley Quinn
In the year we sadly lost THE real Batman, Adam West – three animated Batman features were released direct to DVD, two of them were set in the 1966 universe and featured the voices of Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar in their iconic roles. The second film was the better of the two in my opinion, treating us to the legendary William Shatner hamming it up as the voice of Two Face. But overall, it was Batman & Harley Quinn that I enjoyed the most.
In an extension to the magnificent animated series, Batman and Nightwing must team up with Harley who’s trying her best, in her own messed up, psychotic way, to keep out of trouble. Poison Ivy has a plan that will pretty much screw up the entire world and its population, Batman needs Harley’s help. It’s fun, it’s dramatic, it’s a blast. Especially with Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch voicing Harley. And come on – Kevin Conroy IS the definitive voice of Batman, right? Damn right.
8 – Baby Driver
I longed to see this at the multiplex, but missed my opportunity. This was back in the days when I worked for a living. Catching it on DVD, I realised what a mistake it was allowing seeing this on a big screen to slip through my fingers. It’s a sheer pleasure to see old school stunt driving back in a film, rather than improbable and unconvincing CGI that defies the basic laws of physics.
A cool caper movie with a stunning soundtrack and a satisfying story. Great, just great. It belongs up there with my favourite cult car movies like Two Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry and Death Proof. It’s THAT good.
7 – Logan
One of two superhero movies this year that I think are Oscar worthy. And by Oscar worthy, I don’t mean the technical awards for special effects, I mean best actor. Hugh Jackman has been nothing but magnificent in the role of Logan/Wolverine for the past seventeen and a half years. Despite my misgivings about the tortuously bad timeline and continuity of the X-Men franchise Jackman has always been a beacon of excellence in the films, even when the scripts haven’t.
This was Jackman’s last appearance in the role, set in an unspecified future where Professor X is old, infirm and suffering from a kind of Alzheimer’s. This makes the most powerful telepathic brain in the world an unstable, volatile and dangerous thing. It’s mentioned that he somehow killed all the X-Men, except for Logan, who is now caring for him, and moonlighting as a limo driver to make the money to buy medication.
Logan is old and tired – and this film explores what happens to the legendary superhero when his time has come, and his glory days are passed. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and an unforgettable closer for Jackman.
6 – Guardians of the Galaxy pt. 2
One of the rare examples of a sequel being as good as the first film in every way. Questions were answered, others left wide open. This is a deliciously irreverent addition to the Marvel Movie Universe. As eagerly anticipated as the film itself was the accompanying soundtrack CD, Awesome Mix Vol 2, which did not disappoint.
Kurt Russell showing up as Peter Quill’s alien father with God-like powers, appearances by Sylvester Stallone and David Hasselhoff, Stan Lee as a Watcher, Baby Groot, Rocket’s relentless sarcasm and Yondu’s scene stealing line “I’m Mary Poppins y’all” – this one had it all.
5 – Shin Godzilla
Gareth Edwards tried, and largely succeeded in making a Hollywood Godzilla movie. But somehow, we Westerners can’t make a proper Godzilla movie. Yes, I enjoyed the Gareth Edwards film – but leave it to Toho Studios to show the world how a Godzilla film is REALLY done.
Shin Godzilla wipes away ALL the previous continuity. All those previous movies from Gojira all the way through to Final Wars never happened. THIS is Godzilla’s first landfall in Japan, and it’s a stunning event movie. It still embraces Godzilla’s rich history, the original theme music is used, although Godzilla himself is now understandably CGI, Toho have taken pains to make him still look like a proper kaiju man in a suit. The scenes of destruction as Godzilla evolves from a weird sea creature, ploughing his way through Tokyo, gushing a red liquid from gill-like openings to the bipedal monster stomping his way destroying everything from his position to the horizon with his radioactive blast is breath taking. It’s as much a film about the Japanese government coping with catastrophe and a race against time to prevent America from dropping a third bomb as it is about the King of the Monsters. Basically, it’s stunning.
4 – Wonder Woman
From this point on, every film I mention was at one point or another at the top of my list.
Wonder Woman was a film I was kind of lackadaisical about seeing. Wonder Woman isn’t really my favourite super hero. I liked the TV series with Lynda Carter, but I never read the comic books, other than the occasional Justice League, where she appeared, and I had read a reprint of her origin story, which was actually very good.
I admit, I was scathing about the casting of Gal Gadot in the role, being of the opinion she couldn’t really carry the part and that she just didn’t have the physical stature or presence needed. Her appearance in Dawn of Justice changed all that. I took it all back.
The trailer for Wonder Woman then sold me completely on Gadot in the role, and making sure I saw the movie the first chance I got. I was absolutely floored by the film. Gal Gadot plays the part perfectly, and her appearance on screen with the theme from Hans Zimmer is a perfect fusion of music and action.
This is her origin story, with very little deviation from the original source material. Ingeniously, the creative decision was taken to set Diana’s appearance in the Western world during the time of the First World War rather than the second. Presumably to quash any similarities to Captain America: The First Avenger. But it worked beautifully.
If I had to choose one scene as the sequence of the year, it would be Wonder Woman at The Front. That was an amazing, skilfully done piece of film. In fact, the whole movie was pretty flawless. Gal Gadot IS Wonder Woman.
3 – Thor: Ragnarok
I may as well come right out and say it. The Thor movies have been my least favourite of the marvel Movie Universe. Thor works wonderfully well alongside The Avengers. But when he’s in his own movies, the character seems to drag into some kind of fantasy Lord of the Rings quicksand.
Ragnarok was a film that there was never a doubt that I was going to see, as close to opening day as possible. But it wasn’t a film that I was looking forward to with a great deal of enthusiasm. With the previous two films, it’s been Loki that made the films entertaining. But then I saw the trailer. More Loki, and The Hulk. In fact, Hulk in a gladiatorial battle with Thor. With Jeff Goldblum watching. That’s when Ragnarok really became interesting to me. What catapulted this film into the number three spot, though was the goofy humour, much like Guardians of the Galaxy. The film is equally dramatic, spectacular and hilarious. Suddenly, Thor is cool. Especially with the sting at the end, leading presumably into this year’s Infinity War.
2 – Justice League
I actually surprised myself, by giving this second place. I saw it and it immediately snatched the top spot. I’ve waited literally decades to see the Justice league swing into action. Live action, that is. It’s something that I never really thought I’d see, because in my book, the Justice League really are comic book royalty. Much more so than the Avengers. Affleck is, in my eyes, perfect as Batman. I have really warmed to Henry Cavill as Superman. Gal Gadot, as I’ve said above IS Wonder Woman. Add to that Ezra Miller as The Flash, Ray Fisher as Cyborg and Jason Momoa who I can’t wait to see in his own movie as Aquaman.
From resurrecting Superman from his death at the end of Dawn of Justice to the battle against Steppenwolf, and an introduction to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World creations – this film truly delivered. It wasn’t to everybody’s taste, but I walked away satisfied and happy with what I had seen. As a fan of DC comics for over fifty years, I honestly can’t understand where the sheer hostility and unbridled sniping from the media comes from.
1 – Star Wars Ep VIII: The Last Jedi
Well, THAT was a surprise – and I’m not even being sarcastic.
There’s always a buzz when there’s a new Star Wars movie. And this was no exception. But having read and discussed various plot theories since the closing credits of The Force Awakens, I was pretty stunned when none of them proved correct. In fact, the story was pretty barebones and simple with very few shock twists, other than the whole thing being a lot less involved and intricate than we thought. Actually, I was outraged on leaving the multiplex – even feeling cheated that Star Wars had been oversold.
Then, on the drive home, I began to really think about the film and how ingeniously clever it was. I found myself still thinking about it days later and began to formulate a notion that perhaps it wasn’t the film that was at fault, it was me overthinking the plot that I had assumed in my own head. The film was fine. Hell, the film was better than fine. My second viewing of the film was better because I didn’t have those grandiose expectations. They should have been dashed the second I saw Luke casually throw his lightsabre over his shoulder and walk away. That should’ve been the hint that this was going in a totally different direction. The Force Awakens was the huge crowd pleaser, as was the original Star Wars. This is the darker more unpredictable Empire Strikes Back of the third trilogy.
Star Wars can still throw a curveball that we’ll never see coming.
And now let’s plumb the depths for those three bottom feeding fugly losers, which will never darken my DVD player with their malign presence. I’ve already wasted too many minutes of my life watching them.
3 – Kingsman: The Golden Circle
A totally pointless sequel to a truly enjoyable spy romp that I love. It added nothing to the story. The joke has been told. Adding Hollywood A-listers as megalomaniacal Bond type villains does not a story make. Damn it. I was looking forward to this one too.
2 – Assassin’s Creed
I’ve never played the game, but then again, I’ve never played Tomb Raider either, but I enjoyed those movies. I just didn’t “get” this. I can’t even blame Michael Fassbinder’s performance, really. (And I’d love to). But the script, the reliance on physics defying CGI – I actually believe I’d have had a better time watching someone play the game.
And my worst cinema experience of 2017?
1 - Blade Runner 2049
I love Blade Runner. I love every version I’ve seen. From the cinema cut to the extended director’s cut to the final cut. I love the story, I love the iconic performances from Ford, Hauer and Hannah. I love the futuristic film noir feel of the movie. The relentless rain, gaudy neon, the grimy, overcrowded city. It’s a masterpiece.
However, the long-awaited sequel turned out to be a long, weary, ponderous drudge of a film that took twice as long to tell the story than it should. Slow delivery of dialogue by Ryan Gosling and a performance practically phoned in by Harrison Ford don’t make for a great film. Neither do overly dark sets. I’m still trying to figure out where all that water came from when Ford was trapped in the Spinner. It was flood water, I assume – but how or why did it suddenly become a raging tsunami-like torrent? Was it a last-minute attempt to actually have something happen?
Big, BIG disappointment.
Copyright © 2010 - 2018 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.