Well, THAT was a tumultuous year of movies.
I’ve been to the cinema more times than I have in several years, a total of 43 screenings. Some of the films, I saw twice. I can say that with the exception of one film that I just couldn’t get into, more on that later – I haven’t regretted seeing a single one of them. Even the cheesiest of them (and I’m looking squarely at Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham) had great effects and an absurd entertainment level.
I kept a list of every film I saw at the multiplex, and this was supposed to make my end of year list an easier task. But my top ten changed over and over. Proving that it ain’t over till the fat lady sings and I’ve seen my last movie of the year, this list is slightly different from the list I submitted to Starburst magazine for their 2018 top 40, because due to the publishing deadlines, there were still some movies to watch – and one of them made my final list, so one had to be dropped. And it was never just a matter of changing number ten – I had to figure where exactly in the list it went. (As it happens, pretty damn high.)
So, without further ado, as they say – here’s my list for 2018.
10) Solo – Okay, it’s surprising to me too that this film is rated as the lowest on my top ten, but bear in mind that I was indifferent to seeing this movie. I thought it was a mistake bordering on sacrilege to have anyone other than Harrison Ford play Han Solo, and I’m not really a fan of those films where you see an established character as a younger version, and there were those reports of a troubled production and reshoots and Ron Howard having to salvage the movie. Nothing about it sounded good. But all in all, it was a far more entertaining and satisfying a film than last year’s Last Jedi, which I get conflicted about however many times I see it. The cameo near the end sealed the deal and made me want to see a sequel.
9) Mission: Impossible Fallout – Over the years, the M:I films have become my spy films of choice. They’re bold, brash, colourful, they have ingenious plot twists, incredible stunt work, often undertaken by Cruise himself, exotic locations and are precisely what the Bond films should be, but sadly aren’t. 007 hasn’t been as entertaining since Daniel Craig took the role, but Ethan Hunt and the IMF team have more than filled that void. Fallout showed that you can have instalments follow one another without it becoming as tedious as the last four Bond movies we’ve endured.
8) Halloween – Another one I didn’t really think would work. Halloween (1978) is my favourite horror movie of all time ever. I’ve grown used to watching it, Halloween 2 and Halloween H20 as a trilogy in October, but last October all that changed when the 40 years later sequel which sweeps away all the other sequels was released. Hey, it’s god to have a choice, right? So now you can either watch the aforementioned trilogy or the original and this. This new option works just as well, it’s been checked – we saw the 40th anniversary re-release of Halloween at the multiplex the week prior to this.
7) Deadpool 2 – For a comic book character I didn’t read until recently, I sure get a blast out of the films. It’s impossible to imagine anybody other than Ryan Reynolds in the role of the relentlessly wisecracking “Merc with a Mouth”. Josh Brolin almost stole the show with his portrayal of Cable, but seriously – nobody can outdo Reynolds. If I were to choose an actor of the year, though it would be Brolin without a doubt. I love the crazy amount of fourth wall breaking that is pulled off in the Deadpool movies – they’re smart, crazy, clever, funny, action packed and completely anarchic. They completely mock both 20th Century Fox AND Marvel – but it’s all tongue in cheek. Hopefully, if the merger of Fox and Disney goes ahead, we can look forward to further adventures. Maybe Reynolds will get his wish and Hugh Jackman can be lured back as Wolverine one more time. We can dream.
6) Ant-Man & the Wasp – Easily the goofiest character in the Marvel movie canon. The first film was just that, goofy fun with awesome special effects. Ant-Man is the everyman super-hero. Sadly, after the events of Captain America: Civil War, he’s under house arrest but is summoned to action. But of course, the authorities can’t know. What intrigued me the most about this one was the burning question – how would it play against the ending of Avengers: Infinity War where literally everything changed. Would this film be a major downer? Nope. Not at all. And it plays perfectly against the events of Infinity War. If you haven’t seen it already, check out the sting at the end.
5) Christopher Robin – I’m as surprised as anyone to see this one on the list. Originally, I thought this would be just another dreary live action remake of a much-loved Disney animated classic, just like Jungle Book and more especially Beauty and the Beast. I mean, really, why do they bother? But happily, I was wrong. Christopher Robin is now grown up, has served in WW2, and is getting, as a lot of grown ups do, cynical. Pooh, in the meantime, goes looking for him. It’s a lot deeper than I would’ve ever thought and carries a potent message. The highlight for me was Pooh’s inarguable, yet gentle logic which try as one might, cannot be faulted. I’ve recommended this film to several people – none of them have told me I was wrong.
4) Aquaman – The most boring, bland superhero in DC’s line-up, not to mention the whole affinity with fish came roaring on to the screen, breaking like a tsunami under James Wan’s direction, with a charismatic Jason Momoa in the lead. One of the handful of films I recommend seeing in 3D, because it works THAT well (for your reference, the others are Avatar and Gravity) I thought that it was the best-looking film since Peter Jackson visited Middle Earth, and the battle scenes were beyond anything I’d ever seen. This was the latest entry to the list and a movie that filled the gap left by Star Wars not releasing a film this Christmas.
3) The Shape of Water – I love Del Toro’s films. The man is a visual tone poet in some of his films, Crimson Peak, Pan’s Labyrinth spring to mind – and yet he’s a master of monster movies like Hellboy and Pacific Rim. In the Shape of Water, he blended both with a haunting visual style and score. Yet, on the flip side of the coin we have a film that could easily pass for a sequel to Universal’s Creature from the Black lagoon – one of my favourite monster movies. No pun intended, but this was one of those films that you don’t so much watch, but allow to wash over you. This was the first of the year’s films to get that elusive number one spot. And there it stayed, until I saw…..
2) Ready Player One – At its heart, a quest. But what a quest. A quest through a bewildering array of pop culture references and cameos. Every time I see this, I spot something in the background or at the periphery that I had missed before. Seeing it for the first time was a virtual assault on my senses, from marvelling at a car race which included the time travelling DeLorean, Mad Max’s V8 Interceptor AND the 1966 Batmobile among a variety of others, to a climactic battle that included ray Harryhausen’s Cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, MechaGodzilla, the Iron Giant and Chucky – the film was a complete geekgasm of images. We even saw a downed Martian warship from 1953’s War of the Worlds. An absolute delight of a film by Spielberg, finally returning to “our” kind of movie. It was a shame that John Williams didn’t compose the score, but hell, I loved the Alan Silvestri one we got. It often plays in the background here at Geek Central. Ready Player One nudged The Shape of Water from its top spot and stayed there until everything changed.
1) Avengers: Infinity War – This was the big one. The one we all hoped wouldn’t suck. The one that we desperately needed not to disappoint. Ten years of a build up – and it all came down to this one movie. Just about everybody in the Marvel Movie Universe was involved. Thanos, the Mad Titan finally revealed his plan. We finally got to know why he had, for years in the films, been collecting Infinity Stones.
When placed in a gauntlet, he could wield ultimate power and put his master plan into action. His plan was crazy, yes – but also had an absurd logic to it. Thanos instantly became the cinema’s greatest villain not because of his nefarious deeds, and the fact that he succeeded – but he felt the weight of what he was doing, and didn’t do it lightly. One finger snap of the glove and half of all living things everywhere are instantly dusted, giving the surviving half a better chance with the universe’s dwindling resources.
Since 1977, Darth Vader has been my ultimate villain of choice – until Thanos. Moreso than even the sacrifice he makes, the line “You should’ve gone for the head” followed by THE CLICK. There followed a cull of our favourite Marvel superheroes. Characters we never thought we’d see go – just like that. I’ve never seen a film where as the audience left, the place was shrouded in a stunned silence as characters we’ve cheered on over the years simply died.
The dusting instantly became the biggest cliffhanger in the history of cinema, and I knew as soon as I saw this epically epic movie that I wouldn’t see a better, more effective or indeed affecting film this year – if ever.
Now, for the Bad and Fugly – I can honestly say that I only saw one film this year that I really didn’t like, but hell, I tried.
The Greatest Showman – There, I’ve said it. Thankfully, I didn’t travel to the multiplex for this one, but rather watched it on Sky Premiere at home over Christmas. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of musicals, but I’d enjoyed rewatching both Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang over the festive season, so I figured it’d be now or never for The Greatest Showman. I’d be in the zone, in the right frame of mind and could check it out to see what all the fuss was about, and why so many people seemed to revel joyously in the film and its songs.
Nope. Nada. Nothing. I didn’t like the story, hated the songs – no appeal to me on any level. I just failed to engage with it on any level, and to be completely honest, couldn’t remember any of the songs afterward.
So, there we have it. Onward and upward to 2019 and a whole new slew of cinematic viewing on the slate.
Happy new year, everyone – and happy viewing.
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