2018 has been both mediocre and magnificent. For all the black panthers, widows and crazy rich asians - there have been raptors, wizards and predators to counter that success. Whilst 2017 offered a host of truly dreadful blockbusters, this year has just been a tad lacklustre. However I'm not entirely bah humbug on 2018 - this year has offered a handful of instant classics - some exemplary cinema achievements, especially from the latter half of the year. First up are my honourable mentions - three excellent films that were just shy of making my top 15.
It's really the sucker punch dialog that drives BlacKkKlansman home. Director Spike Lee balances a dark, sinister tone with a wickedly comical script that sickens you to your core in some moments but busts your ribs in others. Lee crafts many powerful images that ring true, and regardless of its challenging pacing and that it somewhat missed a trick in terms of style, dis Spike Lee joint concludes with an extremely haunting and suitably uncomfortable ending.
Travis Knight ably pays homage to the formula of exec producer Spielberg's iconic 80's adventures - re-fuelling the series with heart, subtlety and self-awareness. Taking influence from E.T. and The Iron Giant, this robots in disguise reboot is, more than anything, a coming of age story. The 1987 setting really gets the creative juices following - Bumblebee perfectly captures the aesthetic of the 80's cartoon, effortlessly blending Transformers nostalgia with an old-school teen tale. There are Breakfast Club references and action sequences in spades, but at the centre of this adventure isn't Bee - it's Charlie Watson.
Though it’s been a long time coming Brad Bird delivers an excellent sequel that frame for frame is just unmissable. Considering the quality and detail of the animation, Incredibles 2 is entirely worth the fourteen year wait. Quite unconventionally Bird allows Incredibles 2 to be bigger in scale but maintains what makes the original so special - the family dynamic. Continuing to expand the story, Bird explores the romanticism of superheroes and the destructive path they leave behind, whilst he develops the personal issues each member must overcome and the heroism behind the masks.
15. Black Panther
No need to rub your eyes or refresh the page, you heard it right - Black Panther is one of the best films of 2018. As a life long Marvel fan, I find myself struggling with the current wave of MCU movies - whilst they're often fun at the time, they rarely go the distance. Black Panther on the other hand has ripened with age. Even though I still don't think it's a perfect picture, posing various narrative issues and sloppy CGI - the impact this film has had is utterly groundbreaking - celebrating the beauty of african culture in an easily accessible, main stream platform. Since its release I have watched Black Panther four times, and yet I still find myself itching to pop in the blu ray once more.
14. Bad Times at the El Royale
The El Royale is a quirky set piece that breathes something new into the age old themes of morality and redemption. The guests have a choice to stay in either sunny California or Nevada the state of hope and prosperity. The line running through the motel seems to symbolise the split between good and evil, the positioning of the guest's rooms hinting at their characters and outcomes. An inventive piece of pulp fiction film noir with engaging characters, various long takes and sharp edits - in contrast to the title there are plenty of great times at the El Royale.
Whitney is the poetic story of one of America's greatest modern icons. Kevin MacDonald creates an artistic documentary that appears far more than a history lesson, exploring how one individual's life can be affected by fame as well as the personal issues of surrounding family members. Obviously the film is agonising but with the help of many moments of footage from Houston's greatest performances as well as spine-tingling sections of "I wanna dance with somebody" - Whitney is heartening and uplifting as it needs to be.
12. I, Tonya
Tonya Harding makes a reappearance in an ice cold sports-thrill that throws all the glitzy figure skating sequins out the window. Retelling one of the most notorious and controversial stories of the era I, Tonya makes no judgements, instead providing the platform for both Harding, Gillooly and several others to tell their stories. Perhaps unexpectedly the film never becomes a grand pantomime of Harding vs Kerrigan, instead I, Tonya is entirely focused on Harding, her deprived upbringing and the frequent slaps, punches and humiliations she endures on the way to the top.
11. Sorry to Bother You
Brilliantly bonkers and ridiculously inventive, there's weird and then there's Sorry to Bother You. This electrifying flick zigs zags between a bucket load of different genres - it's a black-comedy, satire, sci-fi, fantasy and drama that filters its ambitious themes into a thought-provoking and highly original product. Boots Riley's quirky arthouse feature is loud and proud, but it's not just another preacher to the choir. For its sheer weirdness, Sorry to Bother You is a very unique piece of filmmaking, and Riley intertwines weighty ideas in a film that's style is beyond easy description.
10. Ready Player One
Bright and colourful cameos flash in front of us - countless references from Back to the Future, to Saturday Night Fever; Beetlejuice, King Kong and even Alien - and so many, many more. Crucially though, Ready Player One neither depends nor exploits these many references, but rather weaves them into the mesmerising experience developing in front of our eyes. Against some stiff competition Ready Player One is one of the most magnificently nerdy yet entrancing techno cinema experiences in recent years. There's no denying it's a shock to the senses with its explosion of pop culture references but most importantly Ready Player One wonderfully reinforces the magic and sugar rush excitement of fantasy within cinema.
9. Isle of Dogs
Strands of scruffy, ragged fur, cotton wool clouds and a delicate Japanese city structure - with great whit and whimsy Wes Anderson proves that every dog has its day. With his symmetrical visuals and intensely stylised structure, Isle of Dogs emerges as one of Anderson's most nuanced and polished creations to date. Isle of Dogs achieves a perfect contrast between a riveting narrative and trademark, refined cinematography. Where Fantastic Mr Fox was perhaps a little too smug for my liking, possibly lacking the emotional engagement needed for a child's book adaption, through Anderson's winsome artistic flair along with a lighting fast script; Isle of Dogs delivers the beautiful tale of man's best friend.
8. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Hearts will race and fingernails will be bitten down as Mission: Impossible - Fallout delivers a masterclass in how to make spy cinema history. With nuclear bombs, HALO jumping and mountain top helicopter chases all in the mix the only impossible aspect of this mission remaining is creating a sequel better than Fallout. Six films in - Mission Impossible remains the most consistent film series in Hollywood and the only one to get increasingly better by each instalment. Christopher McQuarrie as well as Tom Cruise have surpassed themselves, constructing an adrenaline rush adventure that stands among genre greats.
Widows reveals the cracks in American politics without being ham-fisted or preachy. With Steve McQueen's potent direction and Gone Girl's Gillian Flynn's momentous screenplay - Widows is packed with racial, social and political commentary. This crime drama, heist thriller may be thick skinned like its lead character but underneath there's all manner of pain and suffering. In point of fact, Widows is a defining feature for this year - and possibly for many years to come.
6. A Star is Born
All the stars align in this utterly heartbreaking and thought-provoking portrayal of the modern music industry. Once Bradley Cooper strums his strings and Lady Gaga's voice booms towards the back of your auditorium, you'll find yourself frantically scrambling on the floor trying to retrieve your jaw. Goosebumps aside A Star is Born shines brightly, with Cooper skilfully managing to weave in the contemporary challenges of substance abuse and image expectations, all wrapped up in a moody La La Land-esque reality. A Star is Born is beautiful because it doesn't seek to avoid the sad realities of modern life and the often brutal music industry. Unquestionably harsh but remarkably honest - Cooper’s directorial debut will leave you star-struck.
5. Phantom Thread
Paul Thomas Andersons's delicate material wears well. Equally as graceful as the lavish dresses, Phantom Thread is from every angle a delicate, beautiful work. Embellished through intricate cinematography - not only is it a shock that Phantom Thread hasn't swept up any visual noms - but it's a tragedy. With such fastidious camera work it would be no surprise if genuine dress makers were at the helm of this exquisite picture. With a score cleverly used to slowly build alongside the story; lifted by razor sharp dialog - Phantom Thread is a haunting enigmatic ghost of a story.
4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Prepared to be razzle dazzled by the greatest Spider-Man movie yet. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 has held its title as the quintessential Spidey adventure up to now, but after fourteen years Into the Spider-Verse changes everything. This canvas splashed caper abandons the web head’s exhausted origin story and thwips the focus onto newbie Miles Morales. Swinging beyond the bounds of animation with a vibrant comic book aesthetic - Into the Spider-Verse is a crowning achievement for superhero movies and cartoons alike. The film recognises the true value of Spider-Man, as well as highlighting what he symbolises for so many people.
3. Lady Bird
Lady Bird is neither overly ambitious nor too light and superficial. As it stands, the film is a gorgeously relatable tale of the family dynamic and the complex, angsty stages of growing up. Richly yet softly shot, Gerwig paints many scenes using natural or subdued lighting, giving Lady Bird a warm and fuzzy home video feel. Ultimately it's a short, sweet and accomplished coming of age story that focuses on the importance of home and our mothers - learning to understand them rather than rebelling against them, appreciating our time together and grateful for the individuals they shape us to be.
Placing tragedy and mental illness under the microscope - first time director Ari Aster provokes thought as well as genuine fear from this gut wrenching family drama. Earning such titles as the scariest film since The Exorcist and The Shinning these comparisons are not only accurate but deserving. Essentially Aster doesn't create an awards friendly imitation but a Rosemary's Baby inspired picture that is executed with almost Kubrick-esque precision. Hereditary is the finest and most accomplished type of horror - one that grows with an impending sense of doom and dread, with shadowy figures lurking in the corner of your eyes rather than the completely distasteful gore-fests that most creatively devoid modern horror films have become. Aster along with the punch of Toni Collette's career defining performance delivers one of the scariest, most unsettling and significant horror movies of the modern generation.
1. The Shape of Water
Re-spinning the classical monster movie formula, Guillermo Del Toro creates what is unquestionably cinema's most diverse love story. Inspired by the classic 1954 Creature from the Black Lagoon, Del Toro delivers a tale that breaks all genre conventions - creating a heartstring tugging fairytale where we root for the 'monster' rather than fearing it. The Shape of Water is easily one of the riskiest twists attempted by any mainstream director, and quite frankly Del Toro couldn't have pulled it off any more beautifully.
The film dives into delicate themes of difference, alienation, un-fulfillment and the challenge of finding your voice in complete, isolated silence. Set in an oppressive 60's Baltimore at the height of the Cold War, Del Toro assembles three of society's most outcast individuals: an african-american cleaner, a gay painter and a handicapped woman. Exploring a poignant message of how people fear what they do not understand, the creature symbolises all who have been shut out from the rest of the world. The Shape of Water is a raw, warts and all fairytale that highlights the possibility of against-the-odds love towards quite literally anyone, of any species.
The Shape of Water reinvents the stereotypical Hollywood love story, Guillermo del Toro flipping a classical monster movie on its head to create an adventurous, beautiful tale. Words don’t really describe the blissful magic behind The Shape of Water - a romance brought to life by the passionately driven del Toro and the sensational Sally Hawkins, who delivers one of the finest female performances in recent years. This fishy fairytale is weird, wonderful and mystical and quite possibly the most unique love story you'll ever see.
We've looked at the very best of 2018, but now it's time to cast our minds back the lowest of the low, the worst movies of 2018 - the ones that not only tested my patience but my wellbeing. That being said, as I mentioned in my other list, there haven't been a significant number of truly terrible flicks - just a large number of disappointing ones. Nevertheless this list is chocked full of the very bottom tier movies of 2018, and as we work our way towards the top of the list there are some real stinkers.
15. Pacific Rim : Uprising
This robotic smash n' bash fiesta is shackled by a massively un-engaging premise. Combining the clunky metal action of the Transformers series with the campy colours and corny catchphrases of Power Rangers, Pacific Rim: Uprising will probably appeal most to those who enjoy the Saturday morning cartoon's from which it's inspired. In the final analysis however Pacific Rim: Uprising is just another heavy-handed robot caper to add to the ever growing rusty junkyard pile.
14. Hotel Transylvania 3 : A Monster Vacation
Hotel Transylvania 3 escalates from mildly to immensely annoying in a Frankenstein flash. Whilst animation is definitely suited for Adam Sandler and his friends - the latest monster outing plays like a string of tiresome slapstick shorts as oppose to a progressive storyline. Director Genndy Tartakovsky's portfolio to date consists mainly of cartoon TV shows - notably Samurai Jack and Dexter's Laboratory - explaining the film's un-cinematic and frantic quality, trying to cram Cartoon Network material into a ninety seven minute feature film.
13. A Simple Favour
Twisted to the point of self indulgence, A Simple Favour plays like an overly extravagant and trashy episode of Real Housewives, struggling hard to understand itself. After much success in the comedy scene with Bridesmaids, Spy and The Heat - Paul Feig attempts to step outside his comfort zone and tackle a new type of film. A Simple Favour flounders indecisively between black comedy, erotic thriller and crime drama, unfortunately for Feig his latest film is two frozen margaritas short of a tonal mess. Some parts really work, some don't at all - and the film is thwarted by poor comedic timing.
Tag doesn't tap into our inner child at all, and watching the characters getting hot, sweaty and occasionally bashed is less exhausting than actually sitting through this flick. The concept itself is fairly inventive but it's discouraging to be reminded that comedy films can still be as vulgar and lazy as they use to be - particularly with a cast that should have delivered if not a great time then at the very least an amusing one. Tag - like the game itself - galavants aimlessly, desperately trying to think of its next move.
11. Early Man
Nick Park's cave man caper may be set at the dawn of time but sadly is prehistorically uninspired. Creator of the legendary Wallace and Gromit along with the equally legendary (and academy award winning) Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Early Man fails to live up to the roaring slapstick success of its predecessors. Known for it's irresistibly zany Brit humour - Park fails to find the charm previously established in his works, clumsily - and perhaps surprisingly - falling into the trap of too much toilet humour over sharp one-liners.
10. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Over-stuffed and half-baked - The Crimes of Grindelwald couldn't be any less spellbinding. J.K Rowling's need to service the more hard-core Potterheads takes priority over making a half-decent adventure for wider audiences. She crams in big third act reveals and easter eggs that are sloppy, awkward and occasionally eye roll worthy - unfortunately Rowling is clearly struggling to write straight for the silver screen. The film suffers from feeling completely and utterly aimless - full to the brim of impenetrable sub plots and characters - The Crimes of Grindelwald has too much going on. There is so much content that doesn't make sense, this outing is way more complicated than it needs to be despite the fact that it all feels so inconsequential anyway.
Skyscraper aims high but has just about as much character as a crumbling bungalow. Although it's entirely derivative of Die Hard and Towering Inferno (even down to the european terrorists) that isn't particularly the issue - Skyscraper lacks enough originality and creativity to bridge from the two classic movies from which it's inspired. Obviously Dwayne Johnson movies are either hit or miss, Fast and Furious 8 was quite poor as was Jumanji - despite both of their roaring box office achievements - but San Andreas was great, big, dumb fun similarly to Rampage - released in April. Yet as ridiculous and non sensical as Skyscraper is, it just isn't all that enjoyable.
8. The Leisure Seeker
The Leisure Seeker just about meets the mark of its elderly demographic, however it suffers badly from ageing wooden performances and - much like the faithful RV it follows - a rickety delivery. It seems almost impossible to imagine the all conquering Helen Mirren, Best Actress Oscar winner for the imperious Queen Elizabeth II back in 2006, in such a lacklustre role. The Leisure Seeker's journey is as wayward as Mirren's shockingly inadequate southern accent. Her performance offers little character exposition; although Donald Sutherland's performance is a tad more nuanced the two acting veterans fail to pump enough fuel into this rusty road trip flick.
7. Bohemian Rhapsody
This sluggish Queen biopic isn't any kind of magic. Even though Rami Malek is somebody to love as Freddie Mercury - Bohemian Rhapsody is a watered down, less than mediocre music flick that glazes over the trauma and struggles the band's leading man endured. Freddie's story is told at a ridiculously elementary level with no new insight into the hardship of his life. It's almost like Bohemian Rhapsody reads as a transcript of facts from Wikipedia, lacking any sense of grit and subtlety. The scenes between the band members feel corny and bogus and Freddie's sexuality is dealt with very heavy-handedly, in a black and white way that overlooks any nuance or complexity.
Venom, like the psychotic symbiote itself, is a dark, sticky mess. Sony's flawed Jeckle and Hyde style romp lacks an engaging hero at its centre with Tom Hardy delivering a laughably feeble and highly irritating performance. Eddie Brock staggers across the screen, mumbling aggravating pieces of dialogue and failing to hold himself together. Hardy is awfully miscast and brings nothing to the human side of Eddie, although that being said his head chomping alter-ego Venom really is a barrel of laughs. Where's that dancing emo Peter Parker, he's a damn sight better than all of this...
5. The Meg
It may come as no surprise that this uninspired, sloppy shark movie is a Megala-dud. Obviously The Meg knows that it isn't the next Jaws, but whatever it was thinking it ends up more of a seaside schlep then a prehistoric predator pursuit. The film is met by two clashing tones - one trying to keep it grounded and serious with the other dragging it into nonsensical Sharknado territory. The bottom line is that The Meg is a stupid and unfulfilling film but it takes around three quarters of the run time to realise so. Despite the trailers promoting this summer movie with the particularly punny caption "Chomp on this" - The Meg fails to acknowledge its sheer campiness in the way I thought it would.
4. The Cloverfield Paradox
The Cloverfield Paradox is a mystery of its own. Delayed a year with no director, cast, plot synopsis and not even a title attached to the project - the working title 'Cloverfield 3' was rumoured to bridge the gap between the previous two seemingly unattached outings. Announced for release in April this past year, Cloverfield 3 was finally given an official release date - and nothing else.
Then Netflix released a thirty second clip titled The Cloverfield Paradox, announcing the film would be available on Netflix after the super bowl that very night - and the rest is history. Paramount's estranged, reality bending Cloverfield spin off is a flawed and silly space thriller that falls victim to all the worst Sci-fi movie conventions. Here we simply have a crummy episode of Black Mirror that scrapes the very bottom of the barrel.
3. The Spy Who Dumped Me
Playing like a parody of previously spoofed spy flicks, The Spy Who Dumped Me is painfully unfunny as it is un-resourceful. Spy films are growing in popularity once again, with the release of Mission: Impossible - Fallout during the summer, along with various other comedic takes on the world of secret agents to counter the more serious stuff. The problem with The Spy Who Dumped Me, however, is that there are not only better spy films out there but also better parodies than this awkward romp. Boasting one of the worst scripts of the entire year, The Spy Who Dumped Me is incompetent and utterly cringeworthy.
2. I Feel Pretty
Amy Schumer's plus sized picture has its heart in the right place but over emphasises what it means to be of a bigger build. I Feel Pretty attempts to recreate the vibe of the frequently referenced 1988 classic Big, but lacks the cinema magic and the scriptwriting ability to do so. Sadly the writers give us no common ground between plus size and size zero - the film hints at portraying how bigger women are treated in society, yet here we see anyone with a fuller frame depicted as clumsy, frumpy, embarrassing and incapable - but at the other end of the spectrum skinny girls are presented as fashionable and glamorous but rude and spiteful. I would be wrong in saying the film isn't well intentioned, however I Feel Pretty is really - ironically - rather shallow.
1. The Predator
With guts, blood and mangled bodies - The Predator is shambolic in every sense of the word. If you try hard enough and imagine everything that could be wrong with a film then The Predator has the lot. Aside the fact that this slapdash - dare I say - "caper" is completely devoid of any thrill, fun or common sense, Shane Black's trademark wise crack humour just does not blend with this silly sci-fi material. It feels as if the film has been butchered by a giant cleaver - revealing what is by a long shot the director's worst work.
There's a particular scene towards the middle act where Olivia Munn's character pulls up Sterling K. Brown for labelling the alien species "Predator" - stating how "Predators kill their prey to survive, this is a sport's hunter". A Predator film that lessens the impact of the Predator is certainly no friend of yours. When things genuinely seem like they can't get worse, The Predator ridiculously sets up a sequel - I was just hoping, praying, begging on my hands an knees that a Xenomorph would show up, slaughter everyone and then at least the film would be over.
Everybody loves ABBA, it's a known fact and I'm certain our passion for the seventies Swedish pop band lies deep within our DNA. If you've never screamed "Dancing Queen" into a comb during a steaming hot shower, or gleefully hit the baritone of Super Trooper then you clearly aren't alone. Mamma Mia! the glittery jukebox musical premiered on Broadway in 1999 but truly rocketed globally in 2008 with Pyllida Lloyd's movie adaption. The film grossed over six-hundred million dollars worldwide and was, at the time, the highest grossing movie ever made my a woman. What's more Mamma Mia!'s cheerful, feel-good vibes injected pure cheap and cheerful fun into the musical genre - and fans ate it up lovingly - in spite of It being critically frowned upon. Fast-forward ten years and a Meryl Streep less - Mamma Mia! returns but this time around with rave reviews, telling two stories as opposed to one.
If you've been keeping up to day with HMBW's latest summer blockbuster reviews you will have seen that originally I found Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again dry, lacklustre, with about as much wear as a pair of flimsy flares. I was one of very few people to quite frankly flamed Here We Go Again for its inability to replicate the original's energy, cheesy style or catchy tunes. Nevertheless the internet has gone nuts over Here We Go Again so I thought it was due a revisit.
Let's be honest, whilst Mamma Mia! (2008) was a terrible film as fans our admiration and enjoyment far, far exceeded our criticism. Thinly plotted, dreadfully sung and with preposterous heads popping up in spontaneous dance numbers, Mamma Mia! was a cheesy masterpiece that provides such a strong feel-good factor it's adored by almost everyone. Repeating the success of its predecessor Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again shines through rather dark times, reminding us all that's good with the world.
Cinema is often a reflection of reality, it takes great talent as well as an artistic vision to create a world people genuinely invest in. Our relationships with films can vary drastically and once in a blue moon you may even discover a film you once hated you've now grown to adore. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is one of those films for me.
Now I'm a man of my word - ninety percent of the time a bad film remains a bad film - but my second viewing of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was bizarre. As Donna and The Dynamos burst onto screen with "When I Kissed The Teacher" you're overcome with a sense of joy, positivity and excitement. Welcoming you with feather bowers and gold stilettos - Here We Go Again is remarkably well intentioned and inclusive - inviting everyone to have the time of their life. Realising this, I have fallen in love with it as a film that prioritises the audience's enjoyment.
Mamma Mia! still holds up and we wouldn't have this dazzling sequel without it, but Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again trumps the original on almost every level. Director Ol Parker delivers this previously flimsy plot with not one, but two poignant stories that cleverly intertwine together. Here We Go Again reflects upon free spirited, flower child Donna and her life during the late 1970's, whilst her daughter Sophie continues her mother's legacy in modern day. Extraordinarily Parker gives a whole new meaning to Mamma Mia! telling the story of a lively, free-wheeling woman, how she discovered herself and the impact she left on her daughter as well as those around her.
Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård perform as devotedly as once before but this time around their younger counterparts act as welcome additions to the cast. Josh Dylan makes a very convincing younger Skarsgard as smooth talking, sailing expert Bill - Hugh Skinner ably captures Firth's shy, polite demeanour as well as Jeremy Irvine who even finds the right Irish inflections as a younger Brosnan.
Furthermore Alexa Davis and Jessica Keenan Wynn are both uncanny clones of Julie Walters and Christine Baranski, capturing the two's comical squabbling dynamic, but Lily James is absolutely the best of the bunch. Although Meryl Streep's absence is noticeable - Lily James is perfect as the bubbly, charming, happy-go-lucky Donna - delivering Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again with a charming story it may never of had with Meryl Streep as the sole focus. Chiefly all the new members of the cast don't fall into the trap of impersonating the original stars - reinforcing the youthful fun of the characters that was only briefly hinted at in the first Mamma Mia!
I originally criticised Here We Go Again for its "dull, un-energetic delivery" - but that is far from the truth and I genuinely don't know what led me to believe otherwise. From "One of Us" to "Angel Eyes", "Waterloo" to "Super Trouper" - despite the biggest ABBA hits being invested into the first film, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again gives us better quality singing to go with better individual performances and as a result the tunes are even more toe tapping in this joyous sequel.
Sometimes we set our expectations too high and consequently the film can disappoint us. I think I clashed with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again due to the lack of Meryl Streep as Donna - but like Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther - it has taken time for me to appreciate what the director was going for. Some films we hate then love, some films we love then grow to hate - either way it's all part of our complex and evolving relationship with films.
In the end Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is designed primarily to deliver a fantastic time. It sidesteps much of the camp and cheesy style of the original, which ultimately leads to a far slicker and sentimental film. Just as fun though ten times more heartbreaking - Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again tells a poignant story, offering a whole new insight into a previously hollow world.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again:
Kaiju is a Japanese film genre where giant monsters attack major cities, engaging the military and other monsters in battle. In the far East it's one of the most recognised forms of entertainment - that's why Godzilla: King of the Monsters is aiming for King Kong sized bucks at the box-office. Whilst Pacific Rim and Pacific Rim: Uprising, Hollywood's flawed attempt at Kaiju, were the most recent return to the genre by an American studio, the US industry has concentrated more on heavy effects action/disaster movie style pieces in recent years.
2014's Godzilla failed to do anything original, moreover last year's Kong: Skull Island instantly became yet another disposable, character - lite, video game action spinner. Importantly though, with Godzilla: King of the Monsters we find the clue in a sneaky post credit scene that Warner Brothers want a slice of Marvel's shared universe pie - announcing their Kaiju monster universe, ambitiously building towards King Kong vs Godzilla - a reimagining of Ishiro Honda's mighty 1962 Kaiju classic.
Though it seriously needs to establish some solid, well developed characters - Godzilla: King of the Monsters brought the house down at Comic Con, boasting one of the most brilliant trailers this year.
The trailer opens with Millie Bobbi Brown gazing attentively into the smokey abyss of the skyline that surrounds her - as a result of her dark wardrobe, overgrown bob and concerned facial expression, she flaunts a classic Eleven-like look. The Stranger Things actress has developed quite the fan base over the past two years, her conscientious persona promises great things to come from what is shaping out to be an attempted Kaiju comeback for tinsel town. Vera Farmiga stars as Brown's mother, who claims earth's original and rightful rulers the Titans must be found or else the planet will perish. Charles Dance, Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe also feature in support.
King of the Monsters brings with it destruction on an epic scale at the hands of Japanese pop culture's most infamous creatures. Every monster but specifically Godzilla stands out visually - you have Mothra the elegant ally, three headed King Ghidorah who promises one hell of a fight and Godzilla who's spine lights up with a lightning blue finish.
In spite of all that artistic flourish, the genius use of sound is what truly shines. As the Warner Bros. symbol mystically fades behind smoke and Farmiga explains her ridiculous monster theory - Debussy's Clair de Lune settles over the dismal atmosphere on screen. In one of the finest music choices i've ever encountered - King of the Monsters' juxtaposition of sound with vision crafts a terrifying yet almost uplifting feeling. This is definitely an intriguing film to look out for.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters stomps into cinemas 31st May 2019.
The internet has gone crazy over Shazam!'s debut at San Diego Comic Con claiming it to be the standout of the entire weekend. From the materials available personally I think Aquaman has the edge over it due to its gorgeous underwater visuals - nevertheless, as an avid comic book fan I'm not a Shazam! enthusiast - yet - and know very little about the character. Plonked in the mist of an exceptionally over saturated genre it faces the exact same problem as Aquaman - it's got to have that spark or in this case that Shazam!
Disney Channel's Asher Angel stars as Billy Batson, a young orphan boy who is apprehensive about his new foster family. He meets Freddy Freeman, played by the excitable Jack Dylan Grazer (who made his name as the hypochondriac standout of Steven King's IT last September.) The dynamic between Freddy and Billy doesn't seem as well developed as it could be, Billy's ego contrasts too greatly to his "normal" personality - making the transition between extremes feel a tad jarring.
Freddy's admiration for superheroes oozes off the screen as we're taken through his bedroom with a Batarang on display and newspaper accounts for Superman lining his draws. A scuffle outside the school highlights with a gang of upper grade bullies highlights Freddy's school status as the lowest of the lows, but provides the opportunity for Billy to demonstrate his heroic qualities. Billy finds himself chased aboard a subway train - lights flash, the carriage rattles, the glass freezes over and mystical symbols appear on the display board - director John. F Sandberg crafts a strikingly ominous atmosphere.
After being met by a magical wizard, Billy miraculously is transformed into superhero Shazam! As Kendrick Lamar's HUMBLE tunefully plays out - Billy discovers his abilities with a fair amount of punching, flying and flossing throughout the journey. As an original slant on the super heroic, Shazam! seems heavily inspired by 1988's Big which is both its best and worse quality - Shazam! seems fairly unique and certainly fun but it runs the risk of being more than a little goofy - and not that super. DC may go from one extreme to the next, dark and brooding to Marvel's current silly, funny, gag-tastic style.
Hopefully the excellent music choice is reflective of how the film will be executed as a whole: refreshing, stylish and edgy. Zachary Levi offers a lightening bolt zap full of charisma and hints at a family friendly, DC Deadpool equivalent (imagine!). I think the Christmas setting will add a lot of character to Shazam! as very few superhero flicks take place in the holiday season - it's just a shame the movie releases in April. DC might hit a home run with a smaller scale story but it's got to limit the goofiness to a certain degree.
San Diego Comic Con was full of surprises, perhaps the biggest and most refreshing was DC stealing the spotlight from Marvel, who have been top dogs for so many years. Fans of the DCEU - or the newly retitled "Worlds of DC" - basked in the glory of Aquaman and Shazam! whilst emerging news from the smaller screen confirmed the return of favourites The Flash, Supergirl and Black Lightning and the trailer debut of Teen Titans. In a dramatic turn of events however Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was fired from Guardians Vol 3 following the necroposting of thousands of offensive tweets from years ago. Yes, Comic Con was not so marvelous this year but appointed DC with some much needed attention after years of dark, brooding and particularly messy film making. Aside the odd exception, things may actually be looking up for the not so doomed DC universe.
As the December release date rapidly approaches with no news, stills or public footage to its name many fans assumed Aquaman was a sinking ship before it had even left shore. That was until Jason Momoa crashed into Comic Con like a tsunami of nerdy, comic book delight.
The trailer begins with Jason Curry (Aquaman) monologuing about his origins over some particularly dark DC house style images of a lighthouse during a storm. Lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry rescues the Queen of Atlantis (Nichole Kidman). Years pass. Arthur is born and grows. Then during what looks like a school field trip to the Aquarium he learns of his fish friendly powers - his eyes burst into shades of yellow after communicating with the shark life in the tank. This sequence is simple but effective, demonstrating the uniqueness of the character early on and highlighting his authority as a hero.
Flash-forward about thirty years and the wise cracking, bundle of energy Aquaman crashes through a submarine hatch in all his seven seas glory. The camera pans upwards towards his steely glare as he turns to his left and smoothly requests "Permission to come aboard". From this scene alone Aquaman - or Momoa to call him by his above water name - establishes himself as a cheeky and appealing hero who demonstrates some distinct Thor like qualities.
Plot wise he is introduced to Mera (Amber Heard) who reveals he has claim to the throne of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, although his half brother Orm is preparing to declare war on the surface world. He follows Mera as they dive into the hidden city - visually astounding as coral reef towers overhead, turtles, sharks and various aqua-mobiles swim by - drawing comparisons to the revelation of Wakanda. The story seems to follow the same "claiming my rightful place as king" formula as Black Panther though. Even though Aquaman stands out visually, director James Wan is going to have quite the job in steering the story through a format we've experienced time and time again - which is beginning to struggle for any real originality.
Initially Aquaman looks nice, it has touches of Pirates of the Caribbean and Percy Jackson but faces the tough task of standing out in a massively overcrowded genre. Ironically the tricky underwater visuals seem fantastic but the above sea level cinematography uses clumsy green screen and a poor one at that. If Aquaman can tidy up the visuals, utilise the directing talent to its best ability as well as its lead man - then DC may be swimming into calmer water after all.
Aquaman washes ashore into cinemas 21st December 2018.
So here we are casting our minds back on both the shining sensations and rotten corpses floating around what feels like a pretty vintage year in the cinema. Looking back to 2016 - HMBW's first official year in action - we endured many fantastic flops and some wonderful hidden gems. Fast forward 365 days and whilst 2017 may have disappointed the moguls in terms of box office takings, this year has been a triumphant procession of creative delights, highlighting the talents the all new diverse Hollywood has to offer. It's been, for me, one of the most successful years of recent times - making this final list of 2017's best all the more challenging!
15. Alien: Covenant
Once again Ridley Scott delivers a brilliant, terrifying work of cinematic gold that props itself nicely between the shoulders of past Alien films even though it may not be launching the series into new grounds. Covenant's unsettling atmosphere matched with Scott's timeless world building capture the idea of isolation and terror, that which made the original so iconic. Resulting in the finest Alien sequel since the 79 original.
14. Hidden Figures
The industry's latest space bio-pic aims high with a perfect launch and landing whilst incorporating some exceptional star power throughout. Hidden Figures is a shining example of how bio-pic's should be made, reimagining a story that everyone knows but the women we don't. As the film gets's its message across, showing us the inequality of the racial divide at the time it never becomes forceful or overly preachy.
13. Paddington 2
Stuck together as firmly as a marmalade sandwich, this is inspiring, uplifting and often dreamlike - driven by magical cinematography. Paddington 2 easily offers this year's most exceptional family outing.
12. War for the Planet of the Apes
Reaves capture the emotional significance of the apes, and underlines what the series - since 68 - has always really been about. With its brilliant range of non speaking acting and the exhilarating yet thought provoking finale, War for the Planet of the Apes visualises a uncomfortably believable look into a world we hope will never to come.
11. The Big Sick
A bitter sweet story of budding relationships, dynamic individuals and cultural obligations. Combined with exceptional star power and sprinkled with the perfect marriage of heart and humour, The Big Sick applauds the modern generation and their admirably in vogue views on race and racial tradition - winding up in a credible, intelligent and beautifully made modern cinema delight.
10. Thor: Ragnarok
Initially Ragnarok was in my opinion the very bottom of the marvel roster however upon second viewing I loved almost everything about it. By no means is it a perfect film; the moronic humour continues to feel incredibly forced and cringeworthy - preventing serious moments to have any of the emotional heft they should. Yet the dazzling, 80's inspired Thor: Ragnarok plays like a Saturday morning cartoon exploding full of colour, character and action. Though Marvel is at its best when it treats its characters more seriously - Ragnarok is easily Marvel's most fun outing yet and quite possibly their best since Civil War.
9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi is gorgeous, it's complex, it's purposeful and in every way the quintessential Star Wars movie. Admittedly it's challenging, uncovering its many layers - asking more of you than previous episodes but the result is a reward worth reaping. Compelled by the phenomenal Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an iconic space sensation, blasting the four decade long series on a new course.
One week, one day, one hour, Nolan returns to the silver screen with his record breaking war thriller Dunkirk. His ingenious element of time dominates ever key aspect; whether its the heart thumping clock tick or the fusion of land, air and sea. This has to be Nolan's most sophisticated and original work yet.
7. Battle of the Sexes
There's no hiding from this terrific tennis drama's powerful backhand. The inspiring light of the LGBT community shines in this tennis drama portraying one of the sport's most important events. Battle of the Sexes presents a touching and inspiring story of challenges to gender and sexual prejudice in 1970s America.
6. Wonder Woman
The first ever female led and directed superhero picture, Wonder Woman is - by a stretch - the most poignant, empowering and important Super movie in recent years. Buoyed by Gal Gadot's charismatic performance, Wonder Woman is a rare cinematic phenomenon that sets to shake up the conventional hollywood formula.
An unhinged look into the mind of a broken American sweetheart. Natalie Portman blossoms in one of her finest performances and quickly creates one of those famous 'nobody else imagined in the role' situations. Splashed with complex and sumptuous 60's cinematography, intricate costume design and edited with original period footage, Jackie is a modern work of art.
4. Baby Driver
An adrenalin kick of high speed action, Baby Driver boasts a sharp, slick and snappy style. Stellar direction, ice cool acting and a devilish story all make for a fantastically fun time. Brought to life by an iconic 'less chat more music' style, Baby Driver is an unmissable, high octane, toe-tapping adventure.
3. Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner and 2049 are both hugely ambitious films, both celebrations of movie making outside the box, both pushing the envelope visually and conceptually. 2049 carries on the legacy with pride and pomp, joyously opening the lid for the current generation. Transportive, purposeful and richly complex - in the same way of its predecessor - 2049 hints at many possibilities, once again leaving us to make our own minds up about the possible outcomes.
Moonlight ever so quietly kept its head down, hiding in the crowd until one day making a huge all conquering entrance. This racial coming of age drama is poignant and powerful, cataloguing a young boy's journey into manhood through broken home, street crime and sexual discovery - delicate in its film making and rich in its cinematography. Moonlight is an instant classic, the powerful use of silence and entrancing sound track make this triumph all the more impressive.
1. La La Land
A love letter to old school Hollywood, La La Land is in every way possible the perfect movie. The design and focus of each single frame, colour or mood are tailored to convey the harsh realities of our hopes and dreams. It's near impossible to not loose yourself in this world of eager eyes and cotton candy clouds, of rich cinematography and vibrant Technicolor. To quote one of the movie's pinnacle moments A little madness is key and certainly gives us new colours to see. La La Land is a modern masterpiece of sheer cinematic perfection.
Let's be truthful we all enjoy sinking our teeth into a little slice of negativity - indeed its part of human nature to occasionally relish in failure rather than always celebrate success. That said 2017 has proven such a positively delightful year that rummaging through the cinema scraps has been a harder challenge than in previous years. Although there aren't many contenders for Worst of the Year, the few that find themselves on this list were pretty abysmal. As always a purely personal and completely biased view - a few are certain to rattle your cage - but please bear with!
Kong: Skull Island
Undoubtedly, Kong: Skull Island is one to watch on the big screen. The relentlessness impact of the repeatedly short and action packed scenes is exhausting. It plays very much like a theme park ride, ups and downs with exhilarating and energetic moments throughout, but at the cost of its characters which are corny and sterotypical - ironically feeling like the one dimensional animatronics we see along the ride.
Cheap and cheerful, Power Rangers flew well under the mainstream radar. Aside the team's uneven development and a number of poorly edited scenes, 2017's Power Rangers undoes the cheerful childlike cheesiness of the original and goes the complete opposite direction. Ultimately - and unexplainably - this movie has me wanting more of the ridiculous Power Rangers Dino Charge, something I never thought I would find myself saying.
10. Atomic Blonde
Charlize Theron carries the weight of Atomic Blonde almost singlehandedly during this routine and humdrum outing - unfortunately the big name supporting cast can't atone for the poorly told story. It brags an all too familiar, if not overused soundtrack and an over complicated plot line - either I'm just stupid or something about this cumbersome spy flick doesn't add up.
9. The Mummy
No, unlike every moviegoer/critic this year I couldn't find a strong enough reason to absolutely despise Tom Cruise's The Mummy. That being said, this Scooby-Doo spoof missed almost every mark that could've made it an exciting launch into Universal's Dark Universe. Wasted talent and a meringue storyline, the result a goofy theatrical re-imagining of Michael Jackson's Thriller video.
8. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Welcome to the Jungle launches a weak plot and hints at a handful of game levels that are never set in stone, unlike the superior, tense and much loved 1995 original, making it very hard to compare the two in any meaningful way. An all new cast and an all new concept; yet Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle feels like a huge missed opportunity. Boasting the same game just from the inside, Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle runs primarily on star power and certainly not creativity.
Has anyone even heard of this one? Mindhorn is dull and generic - a bit like the faded star its based upon. It may offer the odd laugh and some acceptable performances, but no matter how much get up and go Mindhorn has it can't escape the fact its so unbearably boring.
6. Fast and Furious 8
Furious 8 delivers in areas but ultimately runs out of fuel. The three recent predecessors in the series helped shift gears (as it were), focusing not only on the cars but the people driving them. Fast and Furious 8 takes all that fans have learnt to love about the series and shatters them into a ridiculous, senseless and cringeworthy mess - or one spectacular car crash.
5. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Cheap script writing and less than mediocre acting turn this into one giant romp, making the Legend of the Sword very hard to swallow. An utter embarrassment not only itself as a movie, not only to the reputation of the great Guy Richie, but also to the Arthurian legend it has used as inspiration. Looks like this sword should have been left in the stone...
4. The Greatest Showman
Aside from The Greatest Showman's entrancing premise, this is a cheap, offensive musical that is built upon the lies of its lead character - making money from the vulnerable and marginalised. Though its charming cast and incredible soundtrack lure you in, don't be fooled by this schmaltzy circus and its deceiving show - this picture promotes the rise of one of the nastiest characters in show business.
3. Transformers: The Last Knight
At one point in the distant past Michael Bay may have wanted to create a genuinely entertaining spectacle, however Transformers has become Hollywood's biggest cash cow, and Bay is has clearly be commissioned to carry on milking until it's dry. Unfunny, unoriginal, uninteresting, Transformers: The Last Knight is a fifth instalment of an artistically dead franchise that shows no sign of heading off to its grave.
2. The Emoji Movie
Sony's desperate attempt to recycle any current animation for a quick cash grab. Hitting the exact same notes as Inside Out, Wreck it Ralph and The Lego Movie, The Emoji Movie is the laziest, most uninspired kids caper in the industry so far. Sadly this is an entire story fuelled by product placement and bombarded at the younger generation of consumers. The Emoji Movie is a toxic phenomenon and a cinematic disaster - luckily I was able to glaze over, making the experience a tad less excruciating.
Essentially Flatliners isn't an ambiguous film it's just plain stupid. It boasts to be an updated reimagining of the eerie 90's original, yet is too afraid to explore either the scientific or religious possibilities for the afterlife. Was it worth reviving Flatliners? No, it really wasn't. Flatliners is by far the cheapest, most irrelevant of Sony's recent concoctions - don’t even bother with the difibularator this ones dead upon arrival.
A few weeks ago - seemingly to kick start the summer movie season - Marvel dropped their first footage of next year's Black Panther. Overnight social media was taken by storm; soon enough everybody was talking about the Wakandan bred avenger. However what struck us most is Marvel's unprecedented step into black culture. Black Panther will not only be Marvel's first african american led movie, but the first ever entirely black cast to appear within the genre.
I am going to explore reasons why Black Panther will help shake up the MCU and hopefully bring a new wave of marvel superheroes to mainstream audiences.
Marvel could have a complete game changer on their hands. Movies within the MCU hit home almost every time and are increasingly becoming better and better, it's as if marvel have critics and audiences in the palm of their hands. However DC zoomed past after female phenomenon Wonder Woman helped define the superhero genre earlier this June, is Marvel Chairman Kevin Feige behind the curve? Well Black Panther is undeniably the most iconic black superhero in history. And if done right, Feige could further enrich the genre and quite possibly evolve how different ethnicities are perceived in the industry.
The grass isn't as green as it appears. From unknown sources we have learnt that Wakanda may seem like a dream land for those who know of it, however is set to play out much like 2014's Winter Solider. It looks like we are going to be given another sophisticated drama crafted by the hands of masterful film makers. Black Panther will see King of Wakanda - T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as he tries to balance the understanding of his newly appointed power between those from the inside who chose to provoke it. This creates a great opportunity to further explore the man behind the mask and how the weight of his fathers legacy effects him.
New face, New place
"They searched for it in South America - but it was in Africa the whole time". One of the strongest elements that comes along with the Black Panther package is his place of origin aka secret country named Wakanda. Unlike New York used for Avengers, Doctor Strange and now the upcoming Spider-Man film, for the first time since Sokovia we are experiencing and entirely fresh setting. The country's anonymity shuts out the rest of the world, and for once leaves the rest to the animation. Blending the beautiful colours of Africa with the highly advanced technology and welfare of the country, Wakanda will play as a stunning backdrop to an already phenomenal culture.
There isn't a comparison
He is like no other super we have seen before. Whilst fans aspire to be like their icons, previous on screen superheroes can be quite similar and this of course can cause debate as to which hero is most like the other. Captain America has extremely similar traits to Superman and billionaire playboy Iron Man can often have a striking resemblance to Batman. However Black Panther's culture, origin and powers all assist to create an incredibly diverse character that of which is hard to make any comparison to. So when it eventually arrives it is sure to stand out amongst the rest.
Looks like he knows his stuff. Ryan Coogler director of 2015's academy nominated Creed, has expressed in an interview with Hey U Guys "I’m excited. I grew very into pop culture, very into comic books, so it’s something that is just as personal to me as the last couple of films I was able to make." The thirty year old director shows a clear passion and understanding of the character and has vocalised how the origin of Black Panther should be handled by a black director. If Marvel have yet again found a talented director who is passionate about the material, we can only hope they knock it out the park with their 17th instalment.
All star line up
Star power is always important. Although Marvel are known for there ambitious casting choices - Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Chris Pratt as Star Lord - this time around they are setting out with an all star cast. From academy award winning Lupita Nnyong'o as close ally Nakia to Rouge One's Forest Whitaker - there isn't an unfamiliar face in sight. 2018 will also see Andy Serkis reprise his role as the scheming Klaw who's talent was somewhat wasted in Age of Ultron.
Wakanda has a secret of its own
You'll definitely be on the edge of your seats with a face full of popcorn. Though the african king may not initially have all that many ties into the MCU - there is indeed one big question which we've all wanted the answer to since day one. Does the name Vibranium come to mind? New found friend Steve Rogers just happens to posses the shield which is made of the ever so unknown Vibranium. Some of the biggest questions in Marvel history - What is this mysterious metal? and Where does it come from? Is sure to be revealed, as Wakanda's wealth originates from its main export of... you guest it Vibranium. Also a key material in Black Panther's suit - we are sure to finally discover the true secret of the metal and the ongoing power it holds.
Little Kitten to Mighty Panther
His time has come. First appearing in the July of 1966, overtime this wakandan warrior has become a house hold name amongst comic fans - however not the average movie goer. Marvel continue to expand their roster of meta humans and are starting to bring B tech superheroes to mainstream audiences. The iconic web slinger is only just making his appearance this July (though that is more to do with studio rights), Black Panther is quite rightly being given the Avengers treatment and should hope to stem off another branch from the Marvel tree.
Could Black Panther become the next Iron Man, Superman even? With a fresh setting, cast and an incredibly different take on the superhero genre, we are sure to expect great things from Boseman and hope to see a lasting impact on the series.
Black Panther hits theatres February 16th 2018.