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.