It’s become tradition that every year I do a blog post listing my favourite television programmes and films of the year.
As for the big screen, I don’t think it has been a classic year either. I don’t think anything has quite touched the brilliance of last years Goodbye Christopher Robin or Arrival . Here are the my favourites though and the last few do indeed have an air of quality about them.
10. Halloween – I’m a huge horror fan but I like real horror, not particularly teenage 15-rated slasher films but 18 rated with actual horror and jeopardy, maybe even suspense. It’s 40 years since the first Halloween film and as a 4 or 5 year old, it is just about 40 years since I watched my first horror, the original Halloween.
Ignoring most of the sequels, this film picks up 40 years since the original film with Jamie Lee Curtis playing her iconic role. Still understandably unable to put her life back together, she is all ready for the night that can give her closure, presuming she survives.
This film lives up to the original, not quite as slow paced due to the changing nature of films but very obviously in the same mould. There are some great homages to the original and some terrifically horrific moments. You certainly don’t want to be in the same garden as Michael Myers when the motion sensors switch the light off! I love that they retain the music and little touches from the original that give indications of what has or may happen.
9. Mission Impossible Fall-Out
I’ll be honest I don’t much like Tom Cruise the person and I don’t rate him as an actor but the sum of all its parts make Mission Impossible to me a surprisingly good action film. Some really good sequences in Paris and Asia and even knowing that some of the London scenes were physically impossible, they made me almost believe it was real.
I enjoyed this a lot and was glad the bad guy got his comeuppance.
8. The Meg
I’ve always been a fan of Shark movies. It didn’t bother me that Jaws might be hiding under my bed, I watched it as soon as we got a Betamax video copy in the later 1970’s … like Halloween, hugely under-age. Then in the 1990’s was Deep Blue Sea with that fantastic moment when Samuel L. Jackson gets eaten whole just when you’d least expect it.
The Meg doesn’t pretend to be gory and I think a decision was made during the production to deliberately tone the bloody aspects down as real there aren’t any/ It’s quite suspenseful in places and definitely exciting. Jason Statham plays his usual hardnut Cockney and the film is really all about him as The Meg.
For me there The Meg has perhaps the best clip of any film in 2018. The Meg is kind of a dinosaur era shark and as such is much bigger than Jaws and part of the way through the film, we think it has been caught as the massive dead beast is hauled above the ship.
The surprise, horror and total WTF-ness of this massive shark then being eaten by one that dwarfs it is quite something.
A rather braindead film that I really enjoyed.
7. Bad Times at the El Royale
I like Quentin Tarantino films and this one though not made by him, may as well been so. The El Royale is a hotel in the 1970’s set upon the border of two American states. It involves a number of characters who are all coming to the hotel for very different reasons but somehow they all come together in to something of a bloody shoot-out.
If you like films about zombies and Nazis in WW2 films then this could very well be your favourite film for a long time. What could make better villains than Nazi zombies?
This JJ Abrams film follows a platoon of men taking part in Operation Overlord or D-Day as it is known. The first part of the film is a modern take on a traditional war film and though I enjoyed it, I found the inaccuracies a bit annoying.
Things start getting weird and violent though and that is when the film transposes itself into a zombie horror.
Thinking about it, I can’t think of a much better way to spend a few hours and maybe I should rank this film a little higher just because it is so unique.
5. All The Money In The World
This film tells the true-life events of the richest man in the world and the kidnap of his his grandson in Italy just before I was born in 1973. As a Ridley Scott film, you can expect a certain level of competence and it was certainly set in some lavish locations.
I only vaguely knew the story so the plot twists were enough for me and I really watched it as a big fan of Christopher Plummer who was brought in with hardly any notice to re-film every scene previously starring disgraced actor, Kevin Spacey.
You’d never guess for a moment that Christopher Plummer didn’t have the usual months of preparation and the only bits I noticed that were in continuity was that some of the scenes in Hatfield House were in the summer whilst the reshoots in the autumn had a more solemn looking garden. You can read more about the film in my review from the beginning of the year.
Hereditary is nothing if not unsettling. Right from the first seconds, everything feels a bit off and unnerving. It follows a family whose Grandmother has just died, the old lady having a particularly strong link with the slightly freaky little daughter.
If you think it might turn out into a lame Twilight Zone-esque story then you could well be blown away. Gradually a series of at first creepy and then downright disturbing events tears the family apart. One scene happened and I didn’t quite believe my eyes as it so came out of nowhere, very cool.
Toni Collette is particularly amazing in this film which must get somewhere close to matching her performance in one of my favourite films, Sixth Sense. The scene near the end when you see her body floating upwards is one of true horror. This is a horror film where evil wins.
Just watching the first few seconds of the trailer below for Hereditary made me come out in goose-pimples. It was that good.
3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
This is a very character driven film about a mother whose daughter vanished from a small town. The lady doesn’t believe the police are doing all they can to bring about justice and so mounts her own campaign to shame the police into action.
The film is loaded with great actors, primarily Francis McDormand who if nothing else you may remember her great role in Fargo. Woody Harrelson plays the kind hearted and sympathetic police chief who just happens to be battling a terminal condition whilst Sam Rockwell plays one of those bigoted racist police that we have all heard about, if not actually met.
The film is all about characters and they all go on some incredible journeys. It’s also a very unpredictable film which I really liked.
I always have a dilemma between what I think is the best film of the year and what might be my favourite. Three Billboards may well be my favourite and if you really like me then you might send me a copy on Blu Ray for Christmas/birthday…. sadly Overlord isn’t yet released on home formats.
I remember wanting to see this film for months before it actually came out and it even surpassed those lofty expectations as you can see in my original Three Billboards review here.
Peterloo won’t be out in the USA until well into 2019 but it came out here a few months, the work of acclaimed Mike Leigh who throughout his 50 year career is best known for small intimate films.
Peterloo is neither small or intimate but rather epic in scope and with a host of interesting characters. Peterloo is sometimes called Britains Sharpeville which references the famous incident involving the South African state and protesting black people.
Peterloo is such an important incident in British history and yet I’d be surprised if anyone from overseas has heard of it, I’m sure only 2% or less of British people have. Basically not long after the American and French Revolutions, the working people of the newly industrialised Manchester with those satanic mills have had enough.
60,000 people from all over assemble to assert their demands, taking every care possible to squeeze through the draconian laws designed to keep them in their place. It ends with one of the most terrible and inhumane moments in British history when the army is ordered violently destroy the peaceful protest.
The day was lost but the sacrifice of the 15 dead and 600 seriously injured changed things forever and quickened the pace to the type of politics and society we have long enjoyed.
It’s interesting that one of the survivors of the massacre went on to create the world famous Guardian newspaper which has fought for the rights of the oppressed ever since.
- Darkest Hour
There was only ever going to be one contender for the best film of 2018 for me and that of course is Darkest Hour. No-one led a life quite as full as Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and it is always ripe for telling aspects of his life, almost like a long-lived super-hero.
Darkest Hour picks on a very short period of time after the evacuation of the British Army from the beaches of Dunkirk. Europe was conquered, the Soviet Union was allied with Germany and the United States was years away from getting involved. The choice was seemingly one between a negotiated settlement in a humiliating peace treaty with Hitler or invasion, occupation and defeat.
As we go further from WW2, American films have the tendency to get more gung-ho and almost entirely self-centred. Like the even more epic but less involved Dunkirk film in 2017, this tells the story from a different perspective, by the only people actually fighting at the time and concentrates on the efforts of a once discredited Winston Churchill into firing the country and then the world into fighting back no matter what the very obvious costs (at best) would be for the country.
Gary Oldman is spellbinding in his starring and Oscar winning role. Fantastic use is made of actual locations and others that look very convincing to almost everyone but experts. My only slight qualm is that Clement Attlee and Neville Chamberlain both are slightly airbrushed out of the picture somewhat and when depicted, come off slightly negatively. A truly heroic figure like Churchill can easily stand in comparison to other heroes with Attlee of course going on to run arguably the most incredible peace-time government of the 20th century, at least until Margaret Thatcher decades later.
I think most British people who saw it were deeply touched by it in many ways and it can’t only be myself that wishes for a single politician of the calibre of if not a Churchill then an Attlee or many others in this film.
I didn’t know it at the time but one of my favourite quotes is seemingly a Churchill quote (after Shakespeare, no-one is more quotable) and he says it in this film. “Here’s to not buggering it up”. I don’t think the makers of Darkest Hour did.
Incidentally, I, through Ye Olde England Tours run a very successful Darkest Hour Tour
Incidentally, my worst film of the year was the highlight for many people. Black Panther…. nearly a year on I haven’t changed my mind one bit. Truly awful as my review suggests.