icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo Instagram FILM FREEWAY LOGO

blog

Movie news, reviews, features and more thoughts coming soon...

By midlandsmovies, Dec 20 2018 03:12PM

Midlands Movies Top 20 Films of 2018


Well, 2018 has been a mixed bag – for me the Summer blockbuster season was as bad as there’s ever been – yet at the start of the year were some fantastic Oscar-winning and nominated films that were difficult to beat later on as the year drew to a close. Amongst some of these well-known heavy hitters, streaming service Netflix once again featured strong with its investment in smaller productions allowing filmmakers to take more risks than ever before.


You can check out our Worst of 2018 list here – which showcases more than its fair share of duffers – but what was more shocking, for me anyways, was my disappointment with some of the critics’ big favourites. For example, Paul Shrader’s First Reformed with its fantastic central performance from the ever-reliable Ethan Hawke had a tough first half essay to get through. Mandy too had an almost unwatchable first half before hugely picking up in its second and third act but not enough to forget that painful start. And the slow beginnings were even more prevalent in the beautiful to look at, but impenetrable to me, Roma from Alfonso Cuarón. Roma? More like coma, am I right? Arf arf.


But in all seriousness, I had the same reaction to Roma as I did with Boyhood (review here) – the dull meandering and almost non-existent narrative and lack of characterisation gave me little to connect with. It wasn’t just the art-house head-scratchers though. Mission Impossible: Fallout had reviewers frothing with praise but I found the film a superb genre action film with great stunts but nowhere near the game-changer some were claiming (review here). Ditto for the thematically strong but rather bland Black Panther.


With all that in mind, it has been still very difficult to choose just 20 films. My Top 10 has remained quite consistent but trying to fit in just 20 meant that a few favourites were close but failed to scrape through in the end. So more than honourable mentions must then go to:


* Blockers - the best feel-good American comedy in a long time

* Cargo – Netflix’s emotional and excellent zombie drama with Martin Freeman

* Hereditary – if for nothing else than Toni Collette’s mesmerising performance

* Calibre – the best of British in a fantastic dark thriller

* Score: A Film Music Documentary – essential viewing for the film connoisseur

* Deadpool 2 – for me, surpassing the first with its better villains and support cast

* Coco – Pixar’s Mexican flavoured music animation plucked hard on the heart strings

* Molly’s Game – bets its solid hand on Sorkin’s writing and two glorious performances from Chastain & Elba



20. The Night Comes For Us. Directed by Timo Tjahjanto

“Similar to The Raid with its mix of Indonesian gangs and corrupt cops fighting for honour and power using the most violent means possible. The Night Comes For Us has oceans of spilled blood and the bone-crunching punches and killings soon leave bodies piling up and martial arts fans will lap up the phenomenal fight choreography. Stylish and frenetically chaotic, the film is not for the queasy but its wild action and furious violence results in an intense experience that you won’t forget in a hurry”. Click here for full review



19. Phantom Thread (2018) Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
19. Phantom Thread (2018) Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

“Acting legend Daniel Day-Lewis plays dress-designer Reynolds Woodcock who creates fabulous clothes for a series of high class clients before meeting seemingly innocent waitress Alma played brilliantly by Vicky Krieps who is soon pressing Woodcock’s buttons with her bold observations. Phantom Thread explores the idea that true inspiration and creativity develops when recognising our own mortality and by only pushing oneself to the extremes do we come close to perfecting our passions”. Click here for full review



18. Sicario 2: Soldado. Directed by Stefano Sollima

“Whilst a little rough around the edges, a strong script, a cast of dedicated performances and a moody score from Hildur Guðnadóttir, Sicario 2 shoves its problematic politics right in the audience’s face. Simply telling them to deal with it. The ruthless scenes are a stark reminder that audiences should be challenged to get them thinking whilst the film does this alongside some unforgiving excitement and entertainment”. Click here for full review




17. Bohemian Rhapsody. Directed by Bryan Singer

“Rami Malek is without doubt stunning as Freddie Mercury. A shed-load of hits from Queen’s back catalogue are obviously interspersed throughout and Broken into three parts – the film shows Freddie’s killing of his past persona growing up, then the campy frolics and hedonism of operatic orgies and a final head-banging ending with pulsating riffs and joyous rock – if only there was a Queen song that encapsulated all this. A glossy but unfussy musical biopic”. Click here for full review




16. I Kill Giants. Directed by Anders Walter

“Based upon the graphic novel by Joe Kelly (writer) and Ken Niimura (artist), I Kill Giants has a fantastic Madison Wolfe playing a disturbed young girl Barbara Thorson who is a dungeons and dragons playing loner who escapes the troubles of her life by retreating into a world of fantasy. A strong cast of performers are led by Wolfe who is front and centre, and deservedly so, from the start. Dealing with difficult issues and seen from the viewpoint of a bright but troubled young girl, the final twist in the tale tackles much heartbreak within its skilful narrative. But, as we are moved on this poignant journey, I Kill Giants becomes one fictional world you won’t want to escape from”. Click here for full review




15. BlacKkKlansman. Directed by Spike Lee

“With a tight screenplay by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman is adapted from the 2014 book of the same name by Ron Stallworth – a real-life detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s. Powerful and political, the film succeeds owing to the amazing delivery from all its cast but it’s the commanding performances of Washington, Driver and Harrier who make this a formidable criticism on the continued structural racism plaguing the USA”. Click here for full review




14. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Directed by The Coen Brothers

“A 6-part anthology film with each story having its own charms, the Coens have managed to weave varying amazing stories into a cohesive and thematic whole. Where Hail Caesar tackled Roman epics (and musical numbers) amongst its Hollywood setting, the Coens' influence here come from their love of American frontier films - another classic genre linking their modern takes within established cinematic history. Not diverging greatly from their usual style, the death-obsessed duo deliver another historical romp with a great cast and amazing outdoor locations”. Click here for full review



13.Three Identical Strangers. Directed by Tim Wardle

“This excellent documentary comes from Tim Wardle who re-discovers one of the more bizarre stories from the early 80s and re-positions it as a far more complex and dark tale than initially thought. Chilling, thrilling and fulfilling the documentary serves up a triple whammy of satisfying characteristics and combined with the revealing and candid interviews with the put-upon and exploited participants, it ends up being one of the best documentaries of 2018". Click here for full review




12. Isle of Dogs. Directed by Wes Anderson

“You could read Isle of Dogs as a cultural discussion, an auteur animation, a fight against power, a look at family units or just simply a tall children’s tale and all would be valid. Like the best of Pixar – Isle of Dogs takes universal ideas and delivers them back to a young and a mature audience to interpret without flagrantly pandering to either. Highly recommended, this surprising litter of canine characters and prevailing pedigree pups is an absolute joy throughout their adventures on Trash Island”. Click here for full review



11. Revenge. Directed by Coralie Fargeat

“A rape-revenge action horror, the film is certainly not for the faint at heart as Fargeat has created a visceral show of bloody violence and dreamy imaginations as a young girl escapes into the wilderness to hide and stalk her tormentors. The nasty action should bring in the splatter fans, whilst the more discerning can enjoy a depth of character and ideas rarely seen in this brand of furious filmmaking. With intense scenes, Revenge is a non-mainstream cinematic coup that explores slightly deeper themes than your average personal payback piece to provide exploitation pleasures and explosive sequences”. Click here for full review




10. I, Tonya. Directed by Craig Gillespie

“With the spotlight firmly on Margot Robbie’s portrayal of flawed figure skater Tonya Harding, she gives depth to a demonised woman where those around her seem far worse than herself. Whilst also being the first woman to successfully land a triple axel in competition, Harding will sadly now be remembered as a modern villainess yet the film, with Robbie’s tremendous efforts, attempts to give a more nuanced reassessment of one of the most infamous scandals in sport”. Click here for full review




9. Thoroughbreds. Directed by Cory Finley

“Olivia Cooke joins fellow horror stalwart Anya Taylor-Joy as friends who begin a dark alliance together and Thoroughbreds is another fantastic addition to their careers. With Cooke’s sociopathic Amanda matching Taylor-Joy’s prim ‘princess’ every step along the way and Yelchin showing why he is a talent so sorely missed, the film delivers a wonderful atmospheric mix of morbid themes. Thoroughbreds is an accomplished exploration of both egotistical and conflicted morals with an exceptional cast working at the top of their game”. Click here for full review




8. Annihilation. Directed by Alex Garland

“The film has a group of powerful female scientists investigating a para-scientific phenomenon as we follow their every step, involving ourselves in their personal, scientific and emotional lives throughout their excursion. Annihilation ends up being an engaging piece of excellent sci-fi tropes and characters that have clear motivations and are well acted by the cast – and Garland adds enough new ideas to the mix to create a successful slice of intelligent story-telling”. Click here for full review




7. The Shape of Water. Directed by Guillermo del Toro

“Del Toro’s always had a flair for the colourful and enjoys the mix of reality and dream worlds. Yet after a few throwaway gems like Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim, he has hooked all the prize pieces together in this film about fantasy love. A fishy fable like no other, the stupendous Shape of Water is as simple as a child’s story yet at the same time goes to depths only a master filmmaker of del Toro’s skill can reach”. Click here for full review




6. First Man. Directed by Damien Chazelle

“First Man is a fantastic voyage of both a mythical yet somewhat conventional man. Ever the reluctant hero and considering he completed one of the most, if not the most, infamous achievements in human history, moon-lander Neil Armstrong’s commitment to science, family and getting the job done comes across strong in Chazelle’s portrayal. First Man is a first-rate biography mixing an amazing directorial confidence in cinematic techniques to explore what drives us all to unimaginable personal and public feats of endeavour”. Click here for full review




5. American Animals. Directed by Bart Layton

“As the heist narrative evolves, American Animals’ unreliable narrators continue with the film even stopping and rewinding like Haneke’s Funny Games. Yet the boys involved truly find out that life is not like the movies. With the real-life protagonists expressing deep remorse for their actions – whilst still disagreeing on many of the details of the incidents years later – the film shows its obsessions with diverging stories from days gone by. And like the characters, the film itself grows up and delivers a beautiful, fun and at times deadly serious look at the theft of maturity”. Click here for full review




4. Apostle. Directed by Gareth Evans

“An ensemble cast delivers gripping drama throughout Apostle as Dan Stevens visits an emerging cult-like community at the turn of the century. Cinematic in style, production and themes, the movie is a dark and disturbing parable that is anchored by great performances with the actors, and director Evans, helping to raise Apostle by infusing it with flavour, believability and a thematic depth rarely seen in your standard cult genre movie. A divine statement on spirituality and the supernatural”. Click here for full review




3. Avengers: Infinity War. Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo

“A film in which no one feels safe and a few fan-pleasing cameos from films past, Infinity War is as huge as anyone could have asked for… and this is explosive summer blockbuster cinema of the highest order without question. A greatest hits album in all senses of the word, Infinity War is a compilation of scenes containing previously established crowd-pleasers and remixes of the popular tropes. Yet the Russos add enough new material, depth and high stakes to lay down the gauntlet to other filmmakers resulting in this absolute gem of a movie”. Click here for full review




2. A Quiet Place. Directed by John Krasinski

“Mostly avoiding jump scares, the real silent success is Krasinski himself who has taken an original idea and created a script and debut film with hugely entertaining results. Throwing in scenes of real anxiety, unease and boldness, Krasinski’s virtuoso film uses each of these elements to create a satisfying horror blend that delights, but has more than its share of frights”. Click here for full review




1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Directed by Martin McDonagh

“Showing complex struggles from start to finish (including the police, ex-husband, strangers and even the dentist) “Three Billboards” fans the flames of passions and is a brilliant advertisement for the continued talent of McDonagh’s own dark interests. Delivered impeccably by a fantastic cast, the film provides no clear answers but continues the ideas set down within In Bruges. Like that movie, the idea that carrying the pain of past misdemeanours can not only be a detriment to others but mostly to one’s own soul”. Click here for full review


Mike Sales

By midlandsmovies, Dec 17 2017 05:23PM

Midlands Movies Favourite Films of 2017





20. What Happened to Monday Dir. Tommy Wirkola

What we said: “The film’s chases, fire-fights, explosions and shoot-outs will satisfy fans of action yet it is so well constructed, with decent narrative and character development, that these have an emotional weight as an audience sides with the siblings’ plight. A career high for the director and with Rapace returning on a high from an earlier cinematic stinker, the film sits alongside Snowpiercer and Predestination as a fantastic under-valued science fiction story”.

Click here for full review





19. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

What we said: “With one of the best casts of the year, the film will find its fans in those willing to go to the darkest and most gruesome places and uses an antiquated literary device to help provide its metaphorical narrative. It feels that it exists beyond its ancient allegory and with perfect performances, the movie will hopefully gain interest for its artistry alone but in fact leaves an audience with so much more to contemplate”.

Click here for full review




18. Logan Dir. James Mangold

What we said: [Robb Sheppard REVIEW] “All the ingredients are there: Logan’s relationship with Patrick Stewart’s infirm Xavier is touching and shows a tenderness previously unseen, whilst his role reversed turn as a father figure to a young girl sees him move closer to the feeling of family that he’s been so afraid of. This is the finest X-Men outing yet and a near-perfect presentation of a jaded, aging, flawed hero”.

Click here for full review




17. Jackie Dir. Pablo Larraín

What we said: “With a constant shift from public to private, and back again, director Pablo Larraín films many of the scenes in a Kubrick-esque one-point-perspective which both signifies institutional structures but maintains the focus on the lead performance as the world spins around her. Jackie is a rare insight into the private world of a very public figure”.

Click here for full review




16. Mommy Dead and Dearest Dir. Erin Lee Carr

What we said: “The juxtaposition of interesting witnesses, side tales and the natural twists and turns of a barely believable story keeps the interest up. Tackling the lofty subject matter of neglect and child abuse alongside the mystery of a murder case, Mommy Dead and Dearest is terrifying yet very honest in its portrayal of the depths of dishonesty”.

Click here for full review




15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Dir. James Gunn

What we said: “GOTG Vol. 2 is an exceptional feat. The film could be the best-looking Marvel film to date with its eye-popping colour palette and with outstanding costumes, make-up and special effects scenes will satisfy the action fans. However, for me it showed that if you care about your leads then these are hugely heightened and the film’s best asset is Gunn himself in delivering the whole package of a blockbuster franchise and is the Guardian of his own gorgeous galaxy”.

Click here for full review




14. Christine Dir. Antonio Campos

What we said: “Hall does superb work with a complex character that could have easily been exploitative. It avoids focusing on the terrible incident that made her “famous” and attempts to explain what could have caused such a tragedy. Christine’s career-minded female juggling the demands of work, love and womanhood exposes the mental strain of life yet handles all of these difficult themes with compassion and without judgement”.

Click here for full review




13. Baby Driver Dir. Edgar Wright

What we said: [Kira Comerford REVIEW] “Baby Driver proved to be a highly entertaining ride. There are some huge chase scenes to be found throughout...where I sat forward in my chair, mouth wide open, holding my breath with my eyes glued to the screen”.

Click here for full review




12. I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore Dir. Macon Blair

What we said: “One of the biggest and best surprises of the year so far, a superb central performance shows how one frustrated nobody can go almost full-on “John Wick” in the face of an apathetic society. Funny and fascinating, this indie gem uses the reluctant hero trope to perfection as an awkward misfit becomes involved in crimes just by circumstance and bad luck. Yet, there’s no bad luck in the execution by the filmmaker who delivers a knock-out punch of hilarity and humanity”.

Click here for full review




11. The LEGO Batman Movie Dir. Chris McKay

What we said: “The references are nicely woven into the fabric of the film and the jokes hit the mark far more times than they miss. A cool comic comedy, I’d recommend this to anyone who loves Batman and his history over the years and whilst younger kids may not get all the history, the film is enough of a fun family romp to be enjoyed by any audience looking for lots of laughs”.

Click here for full review




10. Brigsby Bear Dir. Dave McCary

What we said: “The low budget nature of their endeavours clearly reflect the filmmakers’ own passions and every positive ounce of that is on screen. Good-natured without being drippy, Brigsby Bear invokes the best parts of child-like innocence and exalts the benefits of simplicity in order to find the basic joys in an ever confusing world. Brilliant”.

Click here for full review



9. Get Out Dir. Jordan Peele

What we said: “A suitable sense of dread is created, not with any jump cuts (although there are a couple) but with an interesting narrative, story development and unsettling atmosphere, Who would have thought such basics would really appeal to cinema fans? Eh, Hollywood? Peele keeps it simple and the film is all the better for it and all the characters are played well be a cast of diverse actors who held hold the whole film together, without ever falling into horror-cliché territory”.

Click here for full review




8. Hacksaw Ridge Dir. Mel Gibson

What we said: “A fully rounded cast deliver a great screenplay and although Garfield as Doss takes centre stage, it really is an ensemble film with everyone delivering their role to perfection no matter how big or small. Catch this as soon as possible and tinsel town’s biggest outcast has once again come in from the cold to deliver a passion project that favours hope over horror on the big screen”.

Click here for full review




7. Free Fire Dir. Ben Wheatley

What we said: “Wheatley has created a sharp action thrill fest...and with a fantastic cast it aims to be more than a throwaway list of killings. Although it’s a little rough and ready round the edges, the film uses this to its advantages making Free Fire a comical accomplishment that will engage fans of Wheatley’s work but will widen his appeal with something more commercially accessible”.

Click here for full review




6. Miss Sloane Dir. John Madden

What we said: “Having already been won over by Chastain’s central performance and the tight script, the film concludes with somewhat of a twist ending I didn’t see coming. But all of the narrative – and almost all of the scenes throughout – squarely rests at the door of Chastain...It’s an intense single piece of acting that without which the movie would simply fall apart. Miss Sloane ends as a well-made and brilliantly paced character study that covers both personal and political themes”.

Click here for full review




5. The Love Witch Dir. Anna Biller

What we said: “Enchanting and engaging, The Love Witch sees Biller creating a multifaceted masterpiece that, whilst on the surface tells the story of a technicolour temptress, is a far more magical experience mixing low-budget tropes with high-brow awareness”.

Click here for full review




4. Raw Dir. Julia Ducournau

What we said: “Raw infects the audience with an orgy of limbs whilst Justine’s withdrawal is depicted in a painfully straight forward filming style. Raw takes the flesh-eating concept and attempts to normalise its presentation. The film becomes a biting metaphor for growing up and its effects on the body and succeeds on many levels and after it had finished I found an obsession with its images and themes and longed for another taste of its delicious pleasures”.

Click here for full review




3. Dunkirk Dir. Christopher Nolan

What we said: [Kira Comerford REVIEW] “....Overall, Dunkirk is a knock-out. It’s a grown-up film that can be enjoyed by the younger generations, and works to give a three-dimensional view of how events played out during this amazing operation that took place in WWII. It combines terrific performances with a score that ratchets tension perfectly, and visuals that place you right at the heart of the action”.

Click here for full review




2. The Last Jedi Dir. Rian Johnson

What we said: “With an expansion of its themes and both the classic and new characters finding their place The Last Jedi will hopefully satisfy super Star Wars nerds and general film audiences too. With such great filmmaking from Johnson, it’s a huge task to tackle the lore and the fan expectations of the infamous space opera, but the director more than comes through. Yet the main thing is the film is a lot of fun. Lots of unadulterated fun. And like the best cinema has to offer The Last Jedi leaves you both with a smile on your face and a lump in your throat”.

Click here for full review




1. Loving Vincent by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman

What we said: “It’s all too easy to allude to this as a masterpiece but a masterpiece it is nonetheless. In the end, Loving Vincent provides a portrait of a conflicting and unknowable sequence of past events that maintains the celebrated artist’s place in the art world. The story, music, acting and, of course, the unique painted design combine perfectly to create a dazzling canvas to be studied over, and most of all enjoyed, like Vincent’s best works already are”.

Click here for full review


Midlands Movies Mike

RSS Feed twitter