But before you jump off because “Gen Xers won’t read anything longer than a tweet” (when you write content for a living you hear this stuff all the time), I’ll just stick to the ten. So prove that you do have an attention span longer than 120 characters and CONSUME MY OPINIONS I mean enjoy my top 10 movies of 2018!
But first, the garbage chute.
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: JK Rowling goes full-Lucas in this damaging, mismanaged mess. Tonally awkward, cripplingly boring and more concerned with slowing the story to stretch it over three more movies than making the most of its potential. It’s all apparent from the start, where the opening action scene is completely pointless.
- Ralph Breaks The Internet: I got a really odd, Orwellian sense of dread watching this movie. If ever a communist country needs to show an anti-capitalism propaganda film, this one comes Disney-approved. It’s almost a production line of references, which is its major flaw - they’re just references. Not funny observations, or cutting satire, just “Hey look, Amazon”. It has some good jokes, particularly in the much pushed Disney Princess section, but there’s no escaping the iron fist of “corporate synergy” that looms large.
- Slaughterhouse Rulez: Supremely out in the lead for “Disappointment of the Year”. Considering the cast I thought for sure this would have been a tentpole summer movie, not an afterthought throw out around Halloween. After seeing it however, clearly the studio knew what they were doing - it doesn’t make the most of its ingredients at all, handicapped by one or two bad plot points and piss poor jokes throughout.
Worst Film of 2018 - The Shape of Water
And yet here we are. As if years of giving the top award to either Marvel or Star Wars without exception and lauding the 1998 Godzilla hadn’t thrown any scrap of journalistic integrity out of the window, I’m now naming the 2018 Best Picture winner as the worst of the year. But screw it, when it’s a choice between applauding a beastiality romance between a freaky fish guy and Paddington’s mom and calling it disgusting and wrong, I want to be on the right side of history.
Christ, it made me cheer on General Zod for crying out loud.
Reasons - Holding off the likes of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (which had one or two outstanding bits but was ultimately too stupid) and Black Panther (which had one or two outstanding bits but was ultimately too just OK), don’t see this as the token indie inclusion - this is a genuinely smartly-made thriller that rises above it’s gimmick.
It could have been as throwaway as 99% of high-concept films that have sprung up in the Blair Witch Project’s wake, but thanks to John Cho and a plot that keeps you guessing right up until the end, make sure you watch this when it inevitably comes out on Netflix in 2019 (I thought it was a Netflix original to begin with, so imagine my surprise).
Best Bit - My knowledge of Pokemon unexpectedly giving away some plot twists.
9. Ready Player One
Reasons - Yeah, please don’t read the book. It’s dross, and this movie fixes all the major problems. That alone endeared it to me, even if it could only mitigate the issue of exposition dumps instead of erasing them entirely. Plot is dealt with in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fashion, preventing the characters from rising above basic stereotypes, but we’re here for the action damn-it, and action is delivers!
I need more time to explain why I like the CGI so much (smooth podcast plug for you there), but I can easily say this is the best video game movie ever made, capturing the thrill of it all without really playing on the outdated jokes about the medium (at least not intentionally). Plus you can play “Where in Birmingham was this shot”! It’s the little things sometimes. . .
Best Bit - The last battle for control of the Oasis is a hell of a thing. And the book would of had us watching Wade act out Monty Python FFS.
8. Creed II
Reasons - Creed was such a strong return to form for the Rocky series, that a sequel was inevitable, and it was equally inevitable that we’d all need to address Rocky IV. Apollo Creed is perhaps even more well remembered for his death at the hands of Ivan Drago than he is for his role in the first two Rocky movies, so there was no other plot his sequel could have followed.
The “Ivan Drago is back but now he has a son who is basically a shave bear” crutch is both the best and worst part of this sequel. Just like how The Force Awakens was just a dressed up remake of A New Hope, Creed II is inescapably a do-over for Rocky IV, beat for beat. But that also gives it more weight than Creed facing another random boxer. This was a necessary plot for a necessary sequel, but thanks to strong performances from the cast, and the right amount of nostalgia, it just about climbs above being a paper-thin retread to become another solid addition to the series.
You can chalk this up to personal fandom more than anything on this list, but damn it it got me going like only Rocky films can!
Best Bit - The final fight delivers big time, but there is something special about seeing Rocky and Ivan meet each other again in Adrian’s after all these years.
7. Bohemian Rhapsody
Reasons - This felt well overdue. Freddie Mercury is less a singer and more of a mythical figure these days - there are several different accounts of who the real Farrokh Bulsara, all of which can seem plausible and absurd at the same time, and it’s astonishing it took until 2018 for someone to commit one of these accounts to film. Maybe they were just waiting for the right man to take on the job. And who would have thought it would be the pharaoh from Night at the Museum?
I tried watching Mr Robot when Rami Malek was cast as Freddie Mercury, but that show is trash. So I was a little concerned this wouldn’t be the tribute the man deserved. Man was I wrong! Malek’s turn is my favourite of the year, tackling every nuance of the complicated and conflicted Rock God. It could be argued that the film shies away from the real gritty material at the end, choosing instead to make Paul Prenter a pantomime villain, but this is a celebration, not a documentary - and which would Freddie prefer you to see?
Best Bit - The amazing recreation of Live Aid. It’s like you’re there, without the worry of being crushed on a tube train afterwards!
6. Deadpool 2
Reasons - Capturing the magic of a successful film is always a problem, but that problem is compounded even more when the first film was such a surprise. Deadpool 2 had some serious shoes to fill, now with added pressure that it wasn’t just a “suck it and see” 18-rated superhero movie experiment, but a big bucks franchise in its own right.
Now, I don’t think this is up to the standards of the first movie, nor would it ever be. Deadpool wasn’t just about the film itself, but the whole narrative and journey that preceded it. You can’t replicate that, but you can carry momentum forward, which thankfully this sequel does. It still packs laughs, it still parodies the genre even as it embraces more and more of its tropes (some ironically, some not), and if anything it surpasses the action of its predecessor. Lighting in a bottle it isn’t, but it could well be the last great superhero movie Fox ever produce.
Prove me wrong Dark Phoenix. Prove me wrong.
Best Bit - Cher.
5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Reasons - Crazy to think that the most out there concept for a Sony Spider-Man movie was the best. For years we were threatened with a Sinister Six movie, a Silver Sable/Black Cat movie, and a freaking Aunt May movie, and yet the acid-trip premise of “What if Spider-Man met Spider-Man, Woman and Pig” not only got chose first but worked out better than expected.
It will come as blessed relief to fans of Miles Morales that not only does he shine in his big screen debut, but so does the world around him. While every Spider-Person gets a stand-out moment, it’s Jake Johnson’s dead-beat Peter Parker that popped me the most, without him ever overshadowing Miles. And while the animation won’t be to everyone’s taste, it sets this movie apart from your garden variety CGI animations of today. The laughs are thick and fast, and it makes you excited for a sequel without pushing one as most franchise do these days. Who knew they could even do that!
Best Bit - The early bonding between Miles and Peter is really funny, and sets up the bedrock relationship that ties everything together for the rest of the movie.
4. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Reasons - I know, I’m surprised too! Because I was supposed to hate this movie, apparently. That’s what the internet would have you believe anyway. Solo took a critical hit, and fans already unsettled by the highly divisive Last Jedi wrote it off weeks before it came out. But as I sit here, fresh off a rewatch to make sure I wasn’t just really happy on the day I saw it in cinemas, I can only put the dislike down to fatigue. Because while not perfect, and certainly not troubling the really great movies in its own franchise, I enjoyed myself!
I feel special praise has to go to Alden Ehrenreich. Those onset rumours seemed to swirl around him in particular. I heard on a podcast that someone even put his problems down to an “inability to act”. But I don’t see that - I see someone embodying a young Han Solo as well as anyone reasonably could. He’s funny, cocky, but not the finished package, as the character would be at this age. And Donald Glover damn near steals the show as young Lando.
Yeah, Emilia Clarke continues to prove she’s the female Daniel Radcliffe, channeling none of her natural charm or charisma into her acting. The “woke droid” L3 is 2018’s most jarring character. And the plot is a little too concerned with explaining every single aspect of Han Solo’s character, look and equipment, but it’s a fun Star Wars story, and Star Wars is still great . . . right?
Best Bit - I’m all in for any interaction between Han and Chewie, but there is something very grin-inducing about their first time flying the Falcon together.
Reasons - We’d be waiting an eternity for big daddy Disney to really tackle death, so let us give thanks to their renegade son Pixar for taking the plunge. I think had this been mid 2010s Pixar, turfing out Brave, Cars 2 and Inside Out, I’m not so sure this would have worked so well. But little did we know this was actually the start of a return to form for the company - a beautifully thought out concept full of fun, depthy characters and stupid good animation.
Instead of making the spectacle of death a grim one, Coco instead looks at it as part 2 of a grand journey, allowing it to tiptoe around the grizzly part of its main topic of discussion and embrace heart-warming themes of family and remembrance. This is helped in no small part by squeezing all of the goodness out of the Day of the Dead mythos, from the crazy visuals to the best soundtrack of the year (eat it, Greatest Showman).
Best Bit - The true rendition of Remember Me for Mama Coco. I had not cried in over a decade. And. It. Made. Me. Sob.
Oh and also GIANT MULTI-COLOURED PANTHER DRAGON.
2. Incredibles 2
Reasons - As flippant as that blurb may be, it’s great to see a tentpole kids franchise like The Incredibles take a well-balanced stab at flipping the typical family model, particularly when the first movie was styled to look like the 1950s when “the man works, the woman cares” dynamic was at its most prominent. It gives this sequel purpose, and allows everyone in the Parr family to tackle new roles - Mr Incredible is struggling to take a back seat, Elastigirl is enjoying her new found freedom, and Jack-Jack is an apocalypse waiting to happen.
You wrap all of that up in an exciting superhero movie, with a high laugh count and ridiculously good looking animation, and it’s easy to see why 2018 felt like the old Pixar roaring back to its brilliant best. Long may it continue (and please stop with the Cars sequels, we get it, we did it, it’s done).
Best Bit - I’m just a sucker for when The Incredibles work together, so take your pick between the opening and closing action scenes. It’s why I prefer The Simpsons episodes where Bart and Lisa work together as friends. Don’t judge me, I just like people being nice to each other as a team. Can’t we all be nice and happy? (I’m layering it on thick because the next movie ain’t about sunshine and rainbows).
1. Avengers: Infinity War
Reasons - Testicles. Cajones. The big brass balls of Marvel to even attempt this. Not since Empire Strikes Back has a major blockbuster franchise decided to go all in on the grim. Say what you will about the completely lack of restraint from Disney in reminding people that Spider-Man, Black Panther and the like aren’t really dead and will all be coming back for sequels (Peter Parker is currently a cloud of dust, he shouldn’t be doing backflips on Jimmy Fallon), the impact of “The Snap” is a major moment in modern cinema history.
That’s not to say that this movie is only notable for the one pop culture phenomenon it spawned - there are plenty of reasons why it has dominated the news and discussion agendas of channels like our own since its opening weekend, and will continue to do so until Avengers: Endgame opens in a few months time. It’s funny without compromising the seriousness of the threat posed. It captures the interesting relationship dynamics that the first movie used so well ten times better than Age of Ultron did. And there is no such thing as “too much praise” for Josh Brolin’s fantastic turn as Thanos.
One year, a non-Marvel or Star Wars movie will win this award. But not this year.
Best Bit - Thanos warps into Wakandam, and one bombs everybody there, everyone watching in the cinema, and every scrap of interest in the DCEU.