2020 Academy Award Nominations – My Thoughts

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The nominations for this year’s Academy Awards have been announced and we now know exactly which films will be vying for the coveted golden statuette. My general opinion is that it’s a mixed bag of quality, especially in the Best Picture field. That said, the Oscars are never going to be universally correct for everyone’s tastes.

Best Picture

Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Parasite
1917

Predicted Win: 1917

The big award this year is a mixed bag. I think this is a three-way race between 1917, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Parasite. I expect 1917 to win as it has dominated the Awards race so far, which is a shame as I didn’t like it very much. I wasn’t invested in any of the film’s characters, felt it was more like watching a video game than a film and felt the story was predictable. My opinion appears to be shared with some of the voters so perhaps Once Upon A Time In Hollywood could win here as I would argue it’s the film that’s most liked by all. Many want Parasite to win but I think like Roma last year, that’s asking too much and it’ll probably just win the Foreign Language category.

I don’t tink the rest of the field have much of a chance. The Irishman was good but not prime Scorsese. Jojo Rabbit received too much of a divided response from critics to win. Ford v Ferrari is a filler choice, despite there being a lot to enjoy. Marriage Story, Little Women and Joker all have more of a chance but are not as popular as the other three. I’m particularly happy that Joker features in this list as it was another breath of fresh air for the comic-book genre and I was worried it may not make the cut due to its divisive response.

As for snubs, it’s a shame not to see The Lighthouse, Us or Uncut Gems as these all looked to be top contenders for these Awards.

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Best Actor

Adam Driver for Marriage Story
Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory
Joaquin Phoenix for Joker
Jonathan Pryce for The Two Popes
Leonardo DiCaprio for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Predicted Win: Joaquin Phoenix for Joker

I think Joaquin Phoenix is a dead cert to win for his mesmerising portrayal of the Clowned Prince who honours the role that won Heath Ledger an Oscar as well in The Dark Knight. The rest of the nominees are good choices, with Adam Driver probably the only competition Phoenix has, who gives an excellent performance in Marriage Story.

As good as DiCaprio’s performance is in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, he is overshadowed by Brad Pitt in the film and he has better performances in his career that weren’t even recognised. Perhaps if this was swapped out for Adam Sandler’s transformative performance in Uncut Gems, this would have made the category a bit stronger.

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Best Actress

Charlize Theron for Bombshell
Cynthia Erivo for Harriet
Renee Zellweger for Judy
Saoirse Ronan for Little Women
Scarlett Johansson for Marriage Story

Predicted Win: Renee Zellweger for Judy

This is a weak category this year. I suspect Zellweger will win here due to her success at the Awards so far this year and her biggest competition and who I think should win here is Scarlett Johansson. A stronger field would have included Lupita Nyong’o’s dual performance in Us, and Florence Pugh in Midsommar.

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Best Supporting Actor

Al Pacino for The Irishman
Anthony Hopkins for The Two Popes
Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Joe Pesci for The Irishman
Tom Hanks for A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood

Predicted Win: Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

A very strong set of nominations. I think Pitt will continue his Awards run here and he absolutely deserves it. It’s one of his best performances in his long career. It’s particularly good to see Joe Pesci here as he plays a character against type in The Irishman whereas Al Pacino plays himself really.

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Best Supporting Actress

Florence Pugh for Little Women
Kathy Bates for Richard Jewell
Laura Dern for Marriage Story
Margot Robbie for Bombshell
Scarlett Johansson for Jojo Rabbit

Predicted Win: Laura Dern for Marriage Story

A stronger set of nominations compared to the leading actress, Dern will likely win here but again, Scarlett Johansson gives an outstanding performance in Jojo Rabbit.

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Best Director

Bong Joon Ho for Parasite
Martin Scorsese for The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Sam Mendes for 1917
Todd Phillips for Joker

Predicted Win: Sam Mendes for 1917

This is a strong field this year and it’s a shame that Mendes is going to win, considering it’s probably his weakest film in his varied filmography. The win should go to Tarantino or Bong Joon Ho. It’s ironic to see Todd Philips here considering his direction clearly channels that of Scorsese who is also nominated.

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Best Original Screenplay 

Bong Joon-Ho & Han Jin Wan for Parasite
Noah Baumbach for Marriage Story
Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Rian Johnson for Knives Out
Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns for 1917

Predicted Win: Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

A good selection, but I think it’s between Tarantino and Parasite. It’s interesting to see Knives Out garner its only nomination here.

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Best Adapted Screenplay

Anthony McCarten for The Two Popes
Greta Gerwig for Little Women
Steve Zaillian for The Irishman
Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit
Todd Phillips & Scott Silver for Joker

Predicted Win: Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit

Another tough one to call, I suspect Jojo Rabbit gets its only win here to balance out the field.

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Best Foreign Language Film

Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Miserables
Pain and Glory
Parasite

Predicted Win: Parasite

Is there really any chance anything else could win here?

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Best Animated Feature

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

Predicted Win: Toy Story 4

This is another interesting but weak field and I think Toy Story 4 will win here with its unlikely strong reception. It’s interesting to see Frozen 2 get snubbed here.

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Best Cinematography

Jarin Blaschke for The Lighthouse
Lawrence Sher for Joker
Robert Richardson for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Rodrigo Prieto for The Irishman
Roger Deakins for 1917

Predicted Win: Roger Deakins for 1917

This is an interesting set of nominations. It can only be Roger Deakins who will win his second award here after recently getting an Oscar for Blade Runner 2049. The photography is very good in 1917, I’ll give the film that. I’d rather the award go to Lawrence Sher who really captures the gritty, neon-lit Gotham City beautifully. It’s refreshing to see The Lighthouse get nominated here. Rodrigo Prieto’s photography in The Irishman is fine but it’s the weakest nomination in the field. A better nominee would be Hoyte van Hoytema for Ad Astra or Pawel Pogorzelski for Midsommar.

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Best Editing

Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
1917

Predicted Win: 1917

This will be another one for 1917’s sweep, especially in its seamless splicing of the various shots together to make the film appear as it is shot in two sequences.

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Best Production Design

Jojo Rabbit
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Parasite
The Irishman
1917

Predicted Win: 1917

I think this will be another win for 1917, especially with the amount of work that had to go in the design to achieve the two shots.

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Best Costume Design

Arianne Phillips for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Mark Bridges for Joker
Mayes C. Rubeo for Jojo Rabbit
Jacqueline Durran for Little Women
Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson for The Irishman

Predicted Win: Jacqueline Durran for Little Women

I think this will be Little Women’s sole win.

Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson in Greta Gerwig's LITTLE WOMEN.

Best Make-Up and Hairstyling

Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

Predicted Win: Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney for Vice

There’s always a film each year which feels like it doesn’t deserve to get a nomination. It was Suicide Squad a couple of years ago and I think this year, it’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil‘s turn.

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Best Original Score

Alexandre Desplat for Little Women
Hildur Guonadottir for Joker
John Williams for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Randy Newman for Marriage Story
Thomas Newman for 1917

Predicted Win: Hildur Guðnadóttir for Joker

This is a weak field. Guðnadóttir is the most deserving win here with her sensational cello-based score for Joker which is hypnotic. Newman’s 1917 score is filled with some strong moments, but the composer has done much stronger work in the past. Randy Newman’s score is familiar with his other works and John Williams’ nomination is laughable. A more deserving field would include West Dylan Thordson for Glass, Michael Abels for Us, Hans Zimmer for Dark Phoenix and Disasterpeace for Triple Frontier.

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Best Original Song

‘I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away’ from Toy Story 4
‘(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again’ from Rocketman
‘I’m Standing With You’ from Breakthrough
‘Into The Unknown’ from Frozen 2
‘Stand Up’ from Harriet

Predicted Win: ‘Into The Unknown’ from Frozen 2

A very unpredictable field and I’m really not sure who will win this. I’m guessing Frozen 2 due to its single nomination when it was snubbed from the Animation field.

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Best Sound Mixing

Ad Astra
Ford v Ferrari
Joker
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
1917

Predicted Win: 1917

Another surefire win for 1917, it’s good to see Ad Astra here.

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Best Sound Editing

Ford v Ferrari
Joker
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
1917

Predicted Win: 1917

Yet another dead cert for 1917.

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Best Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman
The Lion King
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
1917

Predicted Win: 1917

Another win for 1917. The rest of the nominations are fine, although I found the visuals in The Irishman distracting and one of its main flaws. Snubs for this category include John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum and Ad Astra.

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Overall

So based on my predictions, I’m predicting 1917 to be a very dominant presence with the other Best Picture nominees perhaps picking up an Award here and there. I don’t think The Irishman and Ford v Ferrari will get anything. For sure in the technical categories, 1917 will sweep the board.

There are a few films that, inevitably, have been overlooked. These include:

  • The Lighthouse – other than for Best Cinematography, no nominations at all despite getting good reviews and being released in Awards season
  • Waves – some found this to be Awards bait but I really liked it
  • Uncut Gems – no nominations at all despite a transformative Adam Sandler performance and strong direction and technical attributes
  • Dragged Across Concrete – my personal favourite film of 2019, although this was never going to get a nomination

It’ll be interesting to see to what extent 1917 sweeps the board.

The Academy Award Winners will be announced on Sunday 9th February

Knives Out (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer
Certificate: 12A
Run Time: 130 mins

Knives Out is a murder mystery film from director Rian Johnson. This film has always seemed like an interesting premise and with the risks Johnson took on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, this film looked like a Pandora’s box of ideas for him to explore in a different genre. Unfortunately, the result is a film that thinks it’s more intelligent than it actually is and I struggle to understand why the response to this film has been so positive.

Much in the same fashion as Looper and The Last Jedi were for the sci-fi genre, Knives Out is Johnson’s deconstruction of the murder mystery. He has assembled a tremendous cast of suspects, with Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc who is tasked with investigating the sudden death of wealthy murder mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey. It quickly transpires that within Thrombey’s family and circle of individuals, there are many people who would have a reason to commit foul play. These include suspects such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans and Toni Collette to name but a few of the star-studded cast. Rising Blade Runner 2049 star Ana de Armas is the clear standout as Harlan’s nurse of unknown Latin origin. Her character is well-layered and she pretty much carries the film.

The first half of Knives Out is pretty good and the characters are reasonably well established. The film is tonally quirky and Johnson succeeds in balancing comedy within the more morbid, darker moments. Johnson then takes a bold risk early on which is pretty refreshing but then it’s never really expanded on in the second half. The second half is frustrating and I lost interest in what was going to happen. The final twist towards the end of the film is also rather obvious. Ultimately, there are some interesting ideas in Knives Out but the overarching narrative is rather messy, resulting in a rather disappointing film. The first half and the performance of Ana de Armas are Knives Out‘s bright spots.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Ford v Ferrari (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Director: James Mangold
Starring: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone 
Certificate: 12A
Run Time: 152 mins

After solidifying the 15/R rating in the comic-book film and inciting a transformation within the genre with the excellent Logan, director James Mangold pretty much had the creative freedom to make whatever he wanted. He chose to make a biopic about the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1966 which pitted the two car manufacturers together in a revolutionary fashion.

Ford v Ferrari pedals an entertaining and gripping story of its source material that is bolstered by some strong performances and good racing sequences. This is despite a lengthy 152 minute run time which is impressive as it always sustains the pace. The characters are well-developed, particularly Matt Damon and Christian Bale’s leads and the interplay between them is heartfelt yet entertaining. Bale is particularly effective as British World War II veteran / professional race driver as he is constantly let down by his peers who do not appreciate his genius. Tracy Letts is also a standout as the CEO of Ford who is able to balance the authoritarian, no-nonsense but a little dim side with the sheer thrill of race driving. There is a particularly effective scene when he is driven in the car that bears his name around a race track where he breaks down in tears. Visually, the film is sharp with Mangold-regular Phedon Papamichael’s photography showcasing the scope of the race. There are also some sound themes from another Mangold-regular, Marco Beltrami who co-scores the film with Buck Sanders.

As entertaining as the film is, Mangold is surprisingly rather slavish to the biopic formula, something which he managed to subvert beautifully in Logan. The plot is mostly predictable in terms of the character beats needed to serve the genre and there aren’t many surprises to the formula. But ultimately, despite its reliance on formula, there is more than enough in Ford v Ferrari to enjoy and this is an above average effort in a genre that can often isolate audiences that aren’t car enthusiasts.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Doctor Sleep (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Director: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood 
Certificate: 15
Run Time: 152 mins

Ever since it was greenlit, Doctor Sleep sounded like a big risk. Not only does it have to function as a sequel to the classic Stanley Kubrick film adaptation of The Shining but it also has to function as a Stephen King adaptation and as a sequel to his novel. King’s novel itself is also a drastic departure tonally from The Shining. Director Mike Flanagan is a safe bet and has proved himself multiple times in the genre with films such as Oculus, Hush and he even managed to make a good sequel to the critically panned Ouija. Flanagan has already found success adapting King’s work as he directed Gerald’s Game a couple of years ago which received positive reviews, although I had some major problems with it. The cast seems like a gamble too with leading actor Ewan McGregor not seeming like a match for this material, a polar opposite to Jack Nicholson’s bravura performance as Jack Torrance. Rebecca Ferguson has also had a very spotty career, with some terrible performances in films such as The Girl On The Train and The Greatest Showman.

To my dismay and against all the odds stacking against it, Doctor Sleep is an enthralling sequel to The Shining that is refreshingly different from its predecessor but still has some spiritual connections. It is frequently mesmerising and has a fascinating narrative at its core. The characters are well-developed and Flanagan establishes some emotional narrative stakes. Of course, there does not need to be some connection to what has come before it and the third act returns to The Overlook Hotel. The film does dip a little into fan service here but not enough to derail the entire film. But it is the first 2 hours are so that are really, really strong. Speaking of the 152 minute run time, this is a film that earns its length. There are so many standout scenes here and Flanagan does an excellent job of conjuring dread. A scene with Rebecca Ferguson astral-projecting mid-way through is just stunning and a shootout at the end of the second act are the highlights.

The performances are great and Ewan McGregor makes for a strong lead – this may be one of his best performances. McGregor plays Danny Torrance, who we saw as a child in The Shining and he is now a grown-up alcholic and has never managed to rid the fear that has haunted him throughout his life. Even Rebecca Ferguson does a good job here as Rose The Hat, who is the leader of a nomadic tribe who thrive on hunting psyhic children and draining them of their powers. Kyleigh Curran is great as a young girl who also shares Danny’s gift and she is suitably well-developed through the narrative. Jacob Tremblay also impresses in a small role that he performs with ease.

The film is visually astute as well. Michael Fimognari’s photography is fluid and illustruous and there are many standout shots. He manages to capture the chilly atmosphere that haunts Ewan McGregor’s character and manages to stay true to Kubrick in the composition of the shots in the third act. The score by The Newton Brothers is also good, especially a repeated motif of a heart beating throughout the run time that adds to the intensity.

Overall, Doctor Sleep is a surprisingly great sequel that holds it own with Kubrick’s original. Throughout much of the film, I was enamored by it and even though it does begin to dip into fan service in its final sequence, it is a logical conclusion. Doctor Sleep is a triumph and one of the best films of the year.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Ranking The Terminator Films

Terminator: Dark Fate is currently playing in cinemas and whilst its had a rather muted reception, I found a lot to like in it. As I have such a difference viewpoint on this series compared to convention, I thought now would be a fitting time to rank the films in the series so far.

Here is my ranking:

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6) Terminator Genisys

I found it really difficult to rank the first half of this list as there’s not much in it. However, in last place is Terminator: Genisys. What should have been a success, especially with Arnold Schwarzenegger rejoining the series, ended up tanking both critically and at the box office. Although I admit Terminator Genisys has a number of big problems, the film makes up for it in sheer entertainment factor and a couple of interesting ideas which it just about manages to implement. The film’s pacing is very uneven and clunky and the visual effects are surprisingly for 2015 rather sub-par. Choices that have been made by the marketing team are, to put it simply, baffling as a big plot twist was intentionally revealed in the film’s second trailer and poster, where it revealed that John Connor was the villain. Why this was revealed absolutely defies belief – if the plot twist was left for audiences to experience when watching the actual film, it is possible that the reception that the film has garnered would have been very different. The film’s biggest hindrance is its director, Alan Taylor, who seems to be incapable of having any ideas of his own and instead relies on what the studios force him to do. The first 40 minutes is also not great with a rote opening in the future and then Taylor tries to tick off a checklist with references to the first film. The film picks up after and it’s not bad at all. The film also has a mixed bag of performances, with a welcome return from Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke fairing well as a younger Sarah Connor but both Jason Clarke and Jai Courtney are miscast and have no charisma in their interpretation of iconic roles. Although it’s a mixed bag, Terminator: Genisys is good fun overall but it’s easy to see why it didn’t appeal. (My original review here)

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5) The Terminator

The first controversial part of this ranking, I don’t think The Terminator, the film that started this series, is that good. There are so many iconic sequences here and Arnold Schwarzenegger is fantastic in the role that kicked off his career. But as a film, it’s a bit of a trudge to get through. The middle is where the film is best where it’s a pure cat-and-mouse chase between The Terminator and Sarah Connor but the ending action sequence isn’t particularly exciting and the first act is a solid build-up to the carnage that then ensues. I think The Terminator was good in that it introduced some key concepts into the series but the franchise peaked later on.

TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, Kristanna Loken, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2003, (c) Warner Brother

4) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 

The third film in the series had a lot to live up to after James Cameron’s first two entries. Whilst the third film doesn’t top the second, it deserves a lot more credit than it recieved. This is another very entertaining entry and there are many action sequences that are well-shot. The film has a formiddable villain in Kristanna Loken’s TX who is a tough match for the characters to face against. I also appreciated the darker ending the film took and it poses some interesting questions. The film does lose a bit of steam in its final act and can’t match the breakneck pace of the first two acts, but overall a very solid entry in the series.

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3) Terminator: Dark Fate 

Although rather generic in parts and with a shaky opening, Terminator: Dark Fate is often very entertaining and even elegiac in parts in how it melds the old and new. Director Tim Miller makes a bold decision in the film’s opening which has polarised viewers but I thought it worked. There are some gritty action sequences – the first car chase is particularly good and demonstrates Miller’s visual effects heavy background. The other action sequences are all exciting but one does have to suspend disbelief as there are a couple of distracting breaking the laws of physics, which does lower the emotional investment in the characters a little. The film does feel a little like a soft reboot in its narrative, very much in the vein of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Halloween. That said, much like the latter, it works as the new characters the film introduces, especially Natalia Reyes’ Dani Ramos are sympathetic and well-developed. The question remains though whether audiences have had enough of this franchise or are willing to give it another chance. (My full review here)

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2) Terminator Salvation 

Another controversial opinion but I love Terminator Salvation. The decision to set a Terminator film in the future in the height of the Skynet war is a strong departure from the first three films and it really works. Christian Bale and Sam Worthington are great in the lead roles and the action sequences are really well-choreograped and adrenaline-fuelled. The film poses some interesting questions in humanity and I would have loved to have seen this storyline continued in future sequels. A shame that the film was very negatively reviewed, I hope this film gets re-assessed in time.

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1) Terminator 2: Judgement Day

The best film by far is Terminator 2: Judgement Day. James Cameron’s sequel is superior in every respect to the original and it’s very impressive how the sequel is very different in its storyline, not just reheasing the first film. The performances by the cast are all excellent and Robert Patrick’s shapeshifting, liquid metal T-1000 is one of the best adversaries in film ever. The film is paced perfectly and never really puts a foot wrong in its lengthy run time. This is the ultimate Terminator film in the series and one that will never be topped.


So that’s how I would rank the films which does differ a little to convention. I do hope we get to see more of this series but as the last 3 films have failed to ignite sequels from their storylines, the signs currently aren’t boding well.


What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Terminator: Dark Fate (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Tim Miller 
Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta 
Certificate: 15
Run Time: 128 mins

Terminator: Dark Fate is the latest in the series, whose sequels have never managed to replicate the spark the first two James Cameron directed entries. After both Terminator Salvation and Terminator: Genisys sadly failed to ignite a new trilogy, Dark Fate is the latest attempt. Dark Fate unquestionably has a lot more promise in that this film reunites Linda Hamilton with the series and James Cameron also has more creative input, taking a producer credit. The film is directed by Tim Miller, who found success with Deadpool but creative differences meant he didn’t return for the sequel. It’s an interesting project for him to pick as he doesn’t seem like a natural fit and I had big problems with the first Deadpool tonally. With plans for Dark Fate to spark another new trilogy, will this film finally fulfil this promise after two failed attempts or will this film represent yet another nail in the coffin for this franchise?

Although rather generic in parts and with a shaky opening, Terminator: Dark Fate is often very entertaining and even elegiac in parts in how it melds the old and new. Miller makes a bold decision in the film’s opening which has polarised viewers but I thought it worked. There are some gritty action sequences – the first car chase is particularly good and demonstrates Miller’s visual effects heavy background. The other action sequences are all exciting but one does have to suspend disbelief as there are a couple of distracting breaking the laws of physics, which does lower the emotional investment in the characters a little. The film does feel a little like a soft reboot in its narrative, very much in the vein of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Halloween. That said, much like the latter, it works as the new characters the film introduces, especially Natalia Reyes’ Dani Ramos are sympathetic and well-developed. The film is visually interesting and is shot by Ken Seng, who also shot Deadpool. It’s a shame Junkie XL’s score isn’t particularly memorable, especially considering how strong a career he has had so it’s rare for him not to have a hit.

The performances are all great, with Linda Hamilton giving a heartfelt performance in her long-awaited return. Natalia Reyes is great as Dani Ramos, a young Mexican woman who a Terminator is sent after and I think she could easily go on to lead future films. Surprisingly, Arnold Schwarzenegger is also excellent as his signature role with an interesting spin on the character which really works. Mackenzie Davis plays an enhanced soldier sent back to protect Ramos and she fares well here too and although not reaching the heights of previous villains, Gabriel Luna as the Rev9 is good.

Overall, Terminator: Dark Fate is much better than expected and at its height, is very entertaining. The film is bolstered by its strong performances and Miller has markedly matured as a filmmaker. I hope we see more of this franchise but reviews seem to be mixed and despite being in the minority, I thought both Salvation and Genisys were good fun too. Dark Fate is definitely a step-above from Genisys and is also probably better than Rise of the Machines. The question remains though whether audiences have had enough of this franchise or are willing to give it another chance.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Ranking The Comic-Book Films of 2019

The comic-book genre is maintaining its audience popularity and 2019 brought 6 new films to the table. This continues the trend of an increase in this type of film each year and with Marvel having just announced their Phase 4 slate, this number is only going to increase. Here, I rank these films in order of my personal preference.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe reached giddy heights this year, particularly with Avengers: Endgame acting as a culmination of all the films thus far and by-and-large satisfied the fans on the promise of Avengers: Infinity War. Captain Marvel had a shaky start at the beginning of the year but when the film came out, reviews were pretty good and Spider-Man: Far From Home rounded off Phase 3 by answering some of the questions fans had on the repercussions of Endgame.

DC had a very intersting year by first doing well with Shazam! critically and the property finding fandom but it didn’t do well at the box office. Later in the year and not considered part of the DCEU, we had Joker which proved very polarising on release and attracted many controversies. However, generally more people like it than not and it has become the highest-grossing 15 rated film, surpassing both Deadpool and Deadpool 2.

Finally, X-Men: Dark Phoenix released in the Summer which tanked both critically and at the box office. It solidified the end of the series and it is inevitable that Marvel will be integrating the heroes into the MCU. We still have New Mutants to go which is now meant to release next year but word on the street is not good. 

Overall, I would say this was a strong year for the genre with everything pretty good and this has been quite a hard list to rank as many of them are very similar in quality. Let’s get started!

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6) Spider-Man: Far From Home 

I’m genuinely baffled why Spider-Man: Far From Home recieved such the positive response that it did. I found it to be a crushing disappointment and undoes a lot of the excellent work returning director Jon Watts achieved in Spider-Man: Homecoming. I was so surprised when that film released how good it was especially after a time where there had been an influx of films with this superhero but it struck the perfect tone between its humour and seriousness, making for a very grounded entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and featured a very formiddable villain in the form of Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Spider-Man: Far From Home is a real mess narratively and is at times, quite boisterous in tone and the notes it strikes are painfully obvious. The humour does not work at all and you know your film has problems when even Jake Gyllenhaal, who I cannot think of ever being bad in a film, is wasted in the villain role. This was a crushing disappointment and I hope the creative team do not fall into the same traps with the inevitable third film.

There is now a big step in quality…

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5) X-Men: Dark Phoenix 

X-Men: Dark Phoenix recieved terrible reviews and did very poorly at the box office. Surprisingly, I found a lot to like in this film. This is a much more grounded, mature film and director Simon Kinberg interrogates some interesting themes. This is a film where the characters interact with each other and consider the consequences their actions may have rather than having big, brainless action sequences mixed with corny character quips. Perhaps the reason why this film was rejected by many was that it didn’t offer audiences the grand finale of a series it promised and was instead a more meditative affair. I really liked this film and whilst it doesn’t always succeed, the ambition is to be admired. The score by Hans Zimmer is also fantastic and the film is visually interesting. This is a bold move for the series to go out on and I hope the film gets reassessed for what it is as time goes by.

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4) Avengers: Endgame 

Avengers: Endgame is a mostly satisfying culmination of the films so far but it does have its fair share of problems and Infinity War is by far the stronger film of the two. Endgame has a clear three act structure and it succeeds best in its first act where it deals with the repercussions of Infinity War. Although flawed, it makes for an interesting character study and delves into the psyche of the remaining heroes valiantly. The film runs into problems after its first act where it chooses to rectify the events of Infinity War through time travel. Time travel is always a difficult concept as it does feel like a cheap way of rectifying a narrative and it undoes a lot of the stakes audiences have previously invested and means characters are less expendable. Admittedly, Endgame does negotiate its time travel section competently and the film is always entertaining, even if the very conceit is a flawed one. Endgame runs into big problems in its third act where it makes some obvious choices and chooses to give in to fan service. I found its feminism message in particular quite sickly and the ending rather unsatisfactory. However, for a three hour film despite my problems, I was invested the whole way through and I was never bored by the film. The film gets a lot right but it’s just frustrating that more risks weren’t taken in the film’s finale.

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3) Shazam!

Shazam! is an entertaining romp from start to finish that establishes and develops its characters very well. Horror director David F. Sandberg does a great job with this material and it’s satisfying to see his horror influences in certain places of the film as it is quite dark in places. Sandberg balances this with some well-judged humour and Zachary Levi is excellent as the titular character, as are the younger child actors. The notion of family is particularly well realised here and by the end of the film, I would be very happy to spend more time in this world Sandberg has created. Mark Strong is clearly having a good time as the villain and there are some inventive action sequences. This felt like a breath of fresh air in the DCEU and is definitely a more consistent film compared to both Justice League and Aquaman.

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2) Captain Marvel 

Other than a wonky first act, Captain Marvel is entertaining throughout and is refreshingly light for a superhero film. It’s also a film that doesn’t spend copious amounts of time explaining everything and the decision to start the film on an alien planet with a whole race of beings audiences are not familiar with is quite bold. Once Captain Marvel finds herself on Earth, there is some great interplay between Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, who gets developed exponentially as a character here. Ben Mendelsohn, who previous collaborated with directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck on Mississippi Grind, plays a Skrull called Talos and he is equally great and is clearly having a fun time, chewing the scenery. The film is at its best when it fully embraces its 90s setting and fun is poked at Larson’s fish-out-of-water character. When the superhero antics finally arrive, the film doesn’t outstay its welcome and it’s never boring. The film has some good twists up its sleeve too and subverts expectations. (My full review here)

And the best comic-book film of 2018 is…

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1) Joker

By quite some distance, Joker is the comic-book film of the year. Joker is enthralling from start to finish and is one of the best films of the year. Joaquin Phoenix is mesmerising as Arthur and is strangely sympathetic as a character who doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong and commits some despicable acts. Phoenix really becomes the Joker in the last 20 minutes of the film or so and this is particularly effective and it’s astonishing to chronicle the difference in the character from the start of the film to the wicked monster we get at the end. What also elevates Joker from more standard comic-book fare is how it proposes so many different meanings and interpretations. This is a film that requires multiple watches to really get the full picture. Phillips interrogates many interesting themes, the most interesting of which is his depiction of mental illness and the questioning of how society tackles this problem.The string-based score by Hildur Guðnadóttir is hypnotic and compliments the film beautifully. The film is also beautifully shot by Lawrence Sher, who manages to capture the grittiness of Gotham City and juxtaposes it with the neon, pulsating urbanisation. Ultimately, Joker is an unqualified success and another stellar retelling of the iconic character. There are so many standout scenes here that are just stunning to behold. Joker is one of the best films of the year and it will be interesting to see if it gets considered for Awards in the upcoming season, especially given how divisive it has proven to be. (My full review here)



What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister


 

Joker (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Brian Tyree Henry
Certificate: 15
Run Time: 122 mins

Joker is the highly anticipated comic-book villain origin story that has proved rather controversial to both audiences and critics in many respects. This film is separate to the mainline DCEU and stars Joaquin Phoenix as the crazed clown whose devastating story is captured here. Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a down-on-his-luck, mentally challenged individual who lives with his mother and is shunned by society. As circumstances in his life start to deterioriate, Fleck gradually morphs into the iconic villain.

Joker has had an interesting route to the screen since its inception. Choosing to sidestep Jared Leto’s rendition of the character in the ill-received Suicide Squad, director Todd Phillips has chosen to make the film based on an original idea that departs from the conventions of the comic-book genre, opting to create a character study and shy away from big-budget action sequences. Phillips is not at first an ideal fit for this film, having come from a comedic background and his fame has mostly come from the terrible The Hangover trilogy. But his clear inspirations from the works of Martin Scorsese (who did have some input initially before leaving to work on The Irishman) films such as Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy are an interesting diversion to the character that has had many tales on the screen.

Joker is enthralling from start to finish and is one of the best films of the year. Phoenix is mesmerising as Arthur and is strangely sympathetic as a character who doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong and commits some despicable acts. Phoenix really becomes the Joker in the last 20 minutes of the film or so and this is particularly effective and it’s astonishing to chronicle the difference in the character from the start of the film to the wicked monster we get at the end.

What also elevates Joker from more standard comic-book fare is how it proposes so many different meanings and interpretations. This is a film that requires multiple watches to really get the full picture. Phillips interrogates many interesting themes, the most interesting of which is his depiction of mental illness and the questioning of how society tackles this problem.

The string-based score by Hildur Guðnadóttir is hypnotic and compliments the film beautifully, doing a lot of heavy lifting in places. It’s one of the best scores of the year. The film is also beautifully shot by Lawrence Sher, who manages to capture the grittiness of Gotham City and juxtaposes it with the neon, pulsating urbanisation.

The film isn’t quite perfect though. As is clear in all of Phillips’ career, he’s not the most subtle director and there are a few instances in which Phillips chooses to explain certain choices which were pretty self-evident. I’m also a little unsure of the film’s final scene tonally and thought the film could have ended a scene earlier but based on some critical readings that have been put forward, it is admittedly necessary.

Ultimately, Joker is an unqualified success and another stellar retelling of the iconic character. I think Heath Ledger is still my top pick in so much that his origin is unclear and this makes him an all the more interesting cipher. There are hints with Phoenix’s character that what we are watching may not be accurate too though. There are so many standout scenes here that are just stunning to behold. Joker is one of the best films of the year and it will be interesting to see if it gets considered for Awards in the upcoming season, especially given how divisive it has proven to be.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

 

Top Ten Films Of 2019 – Mid-Year Report

Although rather late, I am finally ready to share my usual mid-year report of the Top Ten Films of 2019 so far. As is to be expected, there are still a few films that I am still yet to see but I have tried to get through all the films that I have been looking forward to or the films that reviews have been good for. As usual, I am following the UK release date calendar between January and June. As you are about to see, there are some Awards films included in this list but these have all been released within this time period in the UK.

Honourable Mentions

As always, there are a handful of films that didn’t quite manage to make it into the Top Ten. They all had their specific problems, but the reason why I feel they should be listed is because I found them all to either be entertaining, heartfelt or have some very interesting ideas even if they didn’t quite make it into the Top Ten. As I feel they deserve a mention, I will list them below:

–  Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
–  Ma
–  Birds of Passage
–  Captain Marvel (Review here)
–  Shazam!

Top Ten Films Of 2019 – Mid Year-Report

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10) Polar 

I’m sure for many a controversial choice, Polar got absolutely trashed by critics in its reviews. A Netflix Original, Polar is a revenge thriller in the vein of John Wick and Taken with Mads Mikkelsen playing the action hero with spectacular results. The film is utterly bonkers and what is impressive how it manages to balance sheer grittiness, often at the same time. The decision to cast Matt Lucas as the over-the-top villain is a stroke of genius and the result is a film that I really got on board with.

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9) Can You Ever Forgive Me? 

I generally can’t stand Melissa McCarthy but this is the film for me where she proves herself and she is just magnificent as a down-for-luck author who starts forging letters by famous writers and selling them. Richard E. Grant is also brilliant as her new friend who is battling his own demons. Director Marielle Heller clearly has respect for these characters and deftly balances laugh-out-loud moments with some touching and emotional character development too. The script is really sharp and allows both McCarthy and Grant to play off each other consistently.

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8) Us 

Us is an ambitious sophomore effort from Jordan Peele and although it doesn’t reach the heights of Get Out, this is a cryptic and atmospheric horror film that is full of originality. Peele deals with some heady themes of duality and race and intentionally makes some of the metaphorical meanings in this film ambiguous. The film can be interpreted in a number of ways and further viewings allow this film to be unpacked even more. This is a really interesting film from Peele and even if it doesn’t always succeed, one has to admire the ambition.

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7) John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum 

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a very strong entry in the franchise. Chapter 2 was good but it did feel a little repetitive and lost some of the charm from the first film. This third chapter is a step-up that almost reaches the heights of the first film. The fight choreography is wonderful and particualrly in the first half, it is amazing how much variation in the types of action Stahelski portrays. Keanu Reeves is on top form again and the film furthers the mythology the first two films explored in the criminal world the titular character finds himself tied in. Visually, the film is gorgeous as well, cinematographer Dan Laustsen capturing the neon, visceral quality beautifully. The film ends in a place where further sequels could happen but if the series stopped here, this would be a great trilogy.

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6) Boy Erased 

Boy Erased is the sophomore effort from actor-now-director Joel Edgerton whose debut The Gift was a masterpiece. Boy Erased is a completely different film and is a drama about a teenager who is forced to undergo homosexual conversion therapy program. The cast are all excellent, Lucas Hedges gives a nuanced performance as the conflicted main character and Russell Crowe is a standout as his authoritarian and religious father. Joel Edgerton casts himself as the head of the program and he is a particularly sinister and nasty piece of work. The score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans is fantastic and the film is visually dark and gloomy. Boy Erased is another success from Edgerton and it will be interesting to see where he goes next.

Now into the Top Five…

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5) Triple Frontier 

Triple Frontier is the latest from director J. C. Chandor, who previously made A Most Violent Year which I really liked when it first came out and upon further viewing, I now deem to be a masterpiece as it is a film rich with layers, a terrific narrative and conflicted characters. My expectations were very high for this film, a crime heist thriller with Ben Affleck and Chandor reuniting with Oscar Isaac. This is another excellent film by Chandor and it successfully takes what can be a rather conventional genre into a new direction in the way it explores certain themes and the repercussions the heist has on the group. The score by Disasterpeace is intense and the film looks visually sharp. I was engrossed by the film throughout and Chandor manages to sustain the tension throughout.

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4) Green Book 

Green Book is a thoroughly enjoyable film with some outstanding performances from both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. The script is sharp and provides some fascinating insights into America’s prejudice culture and racism of the time. The interplay and relationships between characters is also excellent, who I really got on board with from the start. It is well-directed by Peter Farrelly and fantastically paced. Green Book provided a controversial win at this year’s Oscars as it ultimately took the coveted Best Picture gong. Whilst I really like it as a film, the controversies surrounding how it represents race and ethnicity are valid. It is unashamedly a white saviour narrative and the film does perpetuate stereotypes. These are questions that come up after watching the film and although it does somewhat tarnish the quality of the film, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t really enjoy Green Book. (Full review here)

Now into the Top Three…

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3) The Mule 

The Mule is a gripping film that ramps up the tension throughout its run time and has a commanding, grizzled performance from Clint Eastwood. Eastwood has played this type of gruff character many times throughout his impressive career but it still works, particlarly when paired with the fascinating story.  The film also teaches some well-intentioned messages and morals and there’s an admirable relationship within Stone’s family that felt authentic and also the relationship between Eastwood and Bradley Cooper’s DEA agent. I also really liked how Eastwood humanized the drug cartel members which results in some memorable characters for Eastwood to interact with. In fact, the script by Nick Schenk, who also wrote Gran Torino which is another excellent Eastwood film, is razor-sharp and efficiently paced. Much like The Old Man and the Gun, another recent release which tackles many of the same themes as this film, The Mule interrogates the existential themes of what makes Eastwood’s character work and why he continues to work for the cartel when he knows what he is doing. (Full review here)

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2) Glass

Glass is an excellent end to this trilogy and mostly represents M. Night Shyamalan at his best – it is pretty much a knock-out. Shyamalan develops these characters extremely well, furthering their character arcs and subverts expectations, for better or worse for some viewers. It is very cine-literate and further deconstructs the generic constructs of the superhero genre and offers some fascinating commentaries on these. As is to be expected, there is a Shyamalan twist and it does undo the good work a little as it isn’t one of his best twists but if you can buy into the film’s central conceit beforehand, it really is excellent. As with a lot of Shyamalan’s filmography, it would be very easy for one to laugh and sneer at this film, as the film walks a fine line. The performances are uniformly excellent, with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson standing out. Technically, Glass succeeds in spades too. The score is outstanding, West Dylan Thordson returning from Split and successfully melding both past themes whilst creating some memorable new ones. DP Mike Gioulakis is also great and there are numerous shots which are just a work of art to look at. I sincerely hope that in a few years time, this film will be reassessed as it’s been really unfairly recieved. (Full review here)

So the best film of the year is…

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1) Dragged Across Concrete 

S. Craig Zahler does it again. His first film, Bone Tomahawk reached very highly in my 2016 list and his second, Brawl In Cell Block 99 took top honours in 2017. Dragged Across Concrete is another wonder from this top director. Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn are both brilliant as two policemen who are suspended after brutally treating a suspect and take matters into their own hands. Tory Kittles is also great as a recently released man who reunites with his family and finds himself intertwined in this case. There are also small roles from Zahler-regulars Fred Melamed, Udo Kier and Don Johnson. The script is once again fantastic and the film deals with the themes of wealth and righteousness very assuredly. Dragged Across Concrete foregoes some of Zahler’s usual ultraviolence and there is nothing here that rivals the violence in his first two films – bear in mind though the film still has an 18 certificate. But instead, this is an equally well-developed narrative that is fascinating throughout and the third act is well-worth the interesting build-up. I think Brawl In Cell Block 99 remains Zahler’s best film but this is another winner and it will take quite a lot for something to top this.

Reflection on 2019 so far…

2019 has been another solid year in terms of film and a definite step-up from 2018’s mid-point which wasn’t a particularly strong selection. Most films so far this year have either been pretty solid or above average but there have been a couple of unexpected stinkers.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters was a real disappointment that after a strong opening turns into a turgid mess in its languorous run time. Hellboy was an outright disaster that undermined Guillermo Del Toro’s brilliant first two films. The Highwaymen was a total bore. But the worst film of the year so far that I have seen is ironically written by S. Craig Zahler who also directed the best film. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich should have been so good on paper and it has a brilliant first scene with Udo Kier. But the rest of the film is just terrible.

Other than these examples, everything else has been at least watchable. I’d be very happy if my end of year list included these films again as they’re all very worthy. Here’s hoping for another strong second half of the year.

What’s Next…?

2019 looks set to continue to be a great year in film and just listing a couple of films that look like they have potential include:

–  Midsommar
–  The Lion King
–  Spider-Man: Far From Home
–  Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood
–  Crawl
–  Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
–  It: Chapter Two
–  Ad Astra
–  Joker
–  Offical Secrets
–  Terminator: Dark Fate
–  Monos
–  Doctor Sleep
–  Sorry We Missed You
–  Ford vs Ferrari
–  Them That Follow
–  Knives Out
–  Motherless Brooklyn
–  Jumanji: The Next Level
–  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

However, it is important to note that this is not a definitive list and these titles are just a few picks scattered across the remainder of the year that have piqued my interest.


Best Films of 2018 (10-1)

This is the second part of my Best Films of 2018 feature detailing my Top Ten films. Click here to read numbers 20 to 11 and the Honourable Mentions.

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten films of 2018:

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10) All The Money In The World 

All The Money In The World is overall, immensely enjoyable and a fun potboiler. It is frequently gripping and is propped up by the brilliant cast. Scott has had a varied career, Alien and Blade Runner at his peak, Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood at his worst and then, many of his films fall in between with ambitious ideas but not necessarily great execution a la Alien: Covenant. All The Money In The World ultimately proves to be one of Scott’s best films and proves that with the right script and the right cast, he can still churn out greatness. Last-minute replacement Christopher Plummer is excellent as J. Paul Getty, as is Michelle Williams as her kidnapped son’s mother who just wants him back but cannot afford the hefty ransom. Although the film will be remembered for its behind-the-scenes shake-up with Kevin Spacey, the film is fantastic in its own right and should be viewed as such. (Full review here)

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9) Last Flag Flying 

Last Flag Flying really knocked me back. Boyhood director Richard Linklater has crafted a bittersweet and warm tale of friendship and coming to terms with loss that is very mature. Yet, the film also has bite in its conflicted commentary of military service and patriotism. The performances by the entirety of the cast are superb and of course, the trio of Steve Carrell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne have such good chemistry together. All of the characters are so well developed that when the film finished, I could have easily watched another two hours of these characters interacting with each other. They are all morally flawed individuals, who have all made mistakes in the past but they all have good intentions. It’s a brilliant film and one that I highly recommend seeking. (Full review here)

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8) In The Fade 

In The Fade is a return to form for German-Turkish director Fatih Ahkin and is a moody yet contemplative insight into the degradation of Diane Kruger’s main character following the death of her husband and her son in a neo-Nazi terrorist attack. The film transitions seamlessly from courtroom drama to a meditative thriller and the whole experience is edge-of-your-seat. The score by Queens of the Stone Age frontman Joshua Homme is excellent and compliments the film beautifully. In The Fade is a hard but necessary and rewarding watch.

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7) Widows

Widows is an intelligent, taut and well-constructed piece that not only succeeds as a basic heist film, but it has a lot to say on the themes of gender and politics. The cast are uniformly brilliant, Viola Davis leading the pack with ease and swagger. The standouts are Michelle Rodriguez, who plays against type as one of the widows and Daniel Kaluuya as Jamal’s menacing mob enforcer brother, also playing against type as his past characters have had a sense of morality. McQueen delivers on the more basic elements of the genre in spades, the heists gripping and tension-filled and the action sequences equally satisfying, given that his previous filmography hasn’t featured this. Coupled with American Animals (13th in this ranking), the heist genre has had a strong year. (My original review here)

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6) Lady Bird 

Lady Bird, the directorial debut of actress / writer Greta Gerwig, is a beautifully humane coming-of-age story of a teenager whose strong personality conflicts with her mothers equally volatile temper. It makes for a fascinating character study, containing plenty of scenarios and vignettes that run true to many home experiences of growing up. Gerwig’s script is particularly polished, mostly avoiding cliche, which keeps the story fresh and makes for a deeply personal insight into the film’s setting of Sacramento, where Gerwig herself grew up. (Full review here)

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5) Phantom Thread 

Phantom Thread represents yet another high for director Paul Thomas Anderson and is a fantastic note for Daniel Day-Lewis to go out on, should this in fact be his swansong. It makes for a masterful character study and a real treat for cinephiles. Two thirds of this film is pretty much note-perfect but I’m still a little unsure of the direction the film takes in the third act but I am definitely more on-board with it than on first watch. (Full review here)

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4) The Shape of Water 

The Shape of Water is a beautiful triumph from Guillermo Del Toro, who once again successfully interweaves and juxtaposes the supernatural to reality. Del Toro has clearly been inspired from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, a film that he wanted to remake from a female perspective but wasn’t allowed. As well as this inspiration, Del Toro’s film is a love letter to early cinema which it borrows in some of its tropes and plot points, infused with his darker work on Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. I was hooked by the film throughout and it has a lot hidden up its sleeve and like his other films, it earns its adult rating with its sex and grotesque violence. (Full review here)

Now into the top #3…

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3) Coco 

I really struggled with 2nd and 3rd, but Coco just lost out on 2nd place. Coco is yet another triumph for the animation giant, Pixar, and ranks as one of their strongest works. It is moving, life-affirming and should manage to appeal to both adults and children alike. It also goes without saying that the attention to detail in the animation is second to none, Pixar continuing to elevate animation to photorealist levels. Combined with the excellent narrative and emotional journey this film takes us through, Coco is a film fully deserving of its all praise. (Full review here)

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2) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri proves Martin McDonagh’s writing talent again and then some. McDonagh has such a great ear for dialogue in this film and there are so many wonderful exchanges of dialogue between characters. It is frequently comic, always entertaining and what I particularly love about this film, is it takes many unexpected diversions in its narrative. The film leads you to believe a certain plot point will go in one direction, but McDonagh in multiple instances, subverts expectations and this makes this film all the more fresh. There are many moments where I was genuinely in awe and shock. It is a biting drama about murder, investigating and how people have multiple sides to their personality. (Full review here)

So the best film of the year is…

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1) Sicario 2: Soldado 

There really was no competition. Sicario 2: Soldado is a masterful sequel and whilst its behind-the-camera talent may not, on paper, be quite as strong as its original, as a film I found it to be better paced and maintains its sharp focus throughout. The first film made a jarring shift in its final third, which although was satisfying, did make the film lose focus a little as the rest of the film follows Emily Blunt’s FBI agent constantly. This is an even more grimy and black picture where characters are morally and ethically bankrupt and there are multiple scenes which are very uncomfortable to watch, in particular an early scene that sets the backdrop for the rest of the film with terrorists blowing up a supermarket. Sollima’s sequel has a rousing commentary on American politics with a Trumpian-like President and the lengths and processes people go to to cross the border. The film gets better on further rewatches and nothing has come close to unseating this film from first position. (Full review here)


So there we go, these films were in my opinion, the best of 2018. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister