Top 10: A look ahead at 2018

What I’m most looking forward to watching in 2018. I’m sure I have missed lots of great things off this list but these are just the 10 things that came to my mind when I stopped to think about it. This doesn’t include things that I’ll only get around to watching in 2018, that’s a whole different list including the Awards nominated films that are on release now but I won’t see in my local cinemas until mid-January.

1. Incredibles 2

When: June / July 2018

Why?: Whenever people ask me what’s my favourite film and they often do, I typically answer that I don’t have a favourite, it changes depending on what mood I’m in but the one film that would come out on top for most moods would be ‘The Incredibles’. It’s my favourite of all the Pixar films, my favourite superhero film, my favourite animated film, works for all ages, families, unfailingly uplifts my mood and is infinitely quotable. So, I’m beyond excited to see if Brad Bird can give it a worthy sequel, because this is the sequel I’ve been waiting over a decade for and all details released so far about when and how the story will be picked up are exactly what I was hoping for, so this should be ‘TOTALLY EPIC’. It’s the one film I know I’ll travel for the earliest available screening of on the opening day.

2. Avengers: Infinity War

When?: April / May 2018

Why?: Have you seen the trailer? ‘The Avengers’ films have been the culmination of each phase of films and they are awesome but this is the culmination of everything so far, it’s what the whole MCU has been building towards for over a decade and is the definition of epic (honestly, check the OED). There’s also a lot to be said for the Russo brothers direction in the MCU so far, ‘Winter Soldier‘ and ‘Civil War‘ are both excellent and bear repeat viewing very well indeed. It’ll be nice to see how their skills work with such an extensive cast and huge scale but ‘Civil War’ was not small and they do some wonderful things with that, including one of the most surprising and compelling antagonists.

3. Black Panther

When?: February 2018

Why?: One of the standouts from ‘Civil War‘ was Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, he got the two sides of the character perfectly right. The trailers look epic and it is building towards ‘Infinity War’ with a character we wanted more of in his homeland which stands out as distinctive. Director Ryan Coogler impressed me greatly with ‘Creed‘ so I have full confidence he will blow me away with this.

4. Ant-Man and the Wasp

When?: July 2018

Why?: I was surprised by how much I loved the first film, I think it got the tone exactly right and the humour was fantastic. Thanks in no small measure to Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, the film that was worrying fans with production issues managed to win me over with ease. There haven’t (yet) been any issues with the production on this sequel so it’s on a safer footing, there’s also a key romance plot being teased which the MCU hasn’t really got prominently at the moment in other films so this could be great for many reasons.

5. Glass

When?: January 18th 2019 (I know, it looks like it’s a 2019 highlight but I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll get moved up, plus I’m looking forward to seeing the trailer enough for that alone to make it into my top ten things I’m excited about in 2018).

Why?: Without spoiling ‘Split’ this ties in to a larger concept that M. Night Shyamalan has explored before. Casting is also very strong and it could be a full return to form for the director as the modest budget may refocus him on making the narrative strong rather than mistaken overreliance on special effects.

6. Aquaman

When?: December 2018

Why?: Despite being massively sceptical of DC’s movies, ‘Wonder Woman‘ proved they can make a good film, then months later ‘Justice League’ proved they can still make a bad film while getting closer to the right tone and being somewhat less of a disappointment. With ‘Aquaman’ I’m looking forward to seeing if they can do better, if there’s a glimmer of hope that ‘Justice League’ while a huge flop for DC might be able to get downgraded to a blip with a few really brilliant follow-up films. I remain sceptical, but it’s nice to hold on to a little hope.

7. Solo: A Star Wars Story

When?: May 2018

Why?: I’ve really enjoyed the new episodes in the Star Wars saga, and I actually quite liked ‘Rogue One‘ although it’s the easiest of the new three to pick apart as being riddled with problems. I loved the idea of Lord and Miller directing and though they were fired in favour of Ron Howard, I hope that there’s still little hints of their work that will make this an exciting and enjoyable film. Many are expecting this to be a disappointment, however, I’m not a huge Star Wars fanboy, I just enjoy the sci-fi action elements over any concern for the larger franchise or character legacy, so if it meets my expectations for a science fiction adventure film it’ll be great.

8. Oceans 8

When?: June 2018

Why?: I really love a good heist movie, especially the first Clooney-led ‘Oceans 11’. Sandra Bullock leading this seems like a great choice, the rest of the casting is excellent, the trailer is fun, all good signs so far. As long as the heist part is nicely twisty and has a bit of genius I’ll be happy. Due to my high expectations, this also stands a huge chance of being the biggest disappointment, so it really could go either way, but I will give it the benefit of the doubt for now and hope to be really please when I see it in the summer.

9. American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

When?: January 17th (onwards)

Why?: I was hooked by the first season that told the story of the O.J. Simpson trial. I binged the whole lot over about four or five days and it was some of the very best television I’ve seen in ages. This new season takes a different case, the murder of Versace, which I know even less about than I did with the Simpson case, so if it’s anywhere near as good as the first case I can imagine getting gripped again. It also stars Darren Criss (‘Glee’) who I’m a big fan of, so it’ll be nice to see him in a dramatic role.

10. X-Men: Dark Phoenix & New Mutants

When?: April and November 2018

Why?: I’ve merged these together as I don’t know which I’m liking the look of more and my reasons for being interested are largely the same for both films. I like the X-Men franchise and these are some of the last to be produced by Fox before being bought by Disney/Marvel. Because of that they could be considered the end of the franchise as it stands, or, if they are brilliant and do very well, they could potentially shape Disney’s way forward with these characters if these films are a foundation too good to do away with. Dark Phoenix has the chance to right some of the wrongs of the disappointing ‘Apocalypse’ and ‘New Mutants’ looks like it’s going to stand out as different from the rest of the franchise so may be a solid stand-alone ‘Hero Horror’ which could be incredible.

A few other honourable mentions:

The Meg (March): Jason Statham and a giant shark, that’s all I know, it’s all I need to know, though I did prefer the original title of just ‘Meg’ and I hope they go back to that. It should be somewhat ridiculous, hopefully in all the right ways, also it’s nice to see former professional diver Statham going back to the water.

Black Lightning (TV, January): The CW lineup of DC shows is already quite packed, I struggle to keep up with the four a week but this fifth show looks really good though apparently it won’t be tied into the ‘Arrowverse’ yet, I don’t know why other than it may be to see if audiences like it first, but the featurettes have already impressed me more than much of ‘Legends of Tomorrow’.

Venom (October): This should be out in October 2018 though it seems like the kind of film that could suffer delays. I’m reserving judgement because there are no firm details released about style or plot, it’ll be a while before we see a trailer. In its favour are Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson, so that makes me think it could be superb.


I love these… But surely something’s missing?

I loved ‘Parks and Recreation’, I still do, I shouldn’t refer to it in the past tense as it’s easy enough to pop the episodes back on and enjoy them all over again. It’s a show that developed a brilliant ensemble of characters whose traits and personalities were consistently endearing, being honed and perfected by the cast over the series’ run.

I also like Funko Pop! figures (not as much as my brother-in-law though that’s a story for another day) so, when I saw the following article my heart leapt for joy!

Ron Swanson and Bert Macklin (FBI) in particular are so wonderful and work really well as interesting Pop! figures. However, on second look, something is definitely a little worrying with this collection. Apart from Lil Sebastian, all these Funko Pops are of white characters!

According to IMDb, Tom (Aziz Ansari) was in just one fewer episode than these other characters, and Donna (Retta) just 4 less than him. I do understand they can’t easily create figures for every character, but surely Tom and Donna would be on any fan’s list of lead characters needed to represent the main group of co-workers featured in the show? They played a far bigger part in making it the success it was than Lil’ Sebastian (though he did inspire a few beautiful moments, just Google ‘5000 Candles in the Wind’).


To be fair, we would also need a Jerry… and a Gerry… Garry… Larry… Terry… Barry… Dammit, Jerry!

Oscar Nominee: Her

Her (2013)

Dir: Spike Jonze

“I think anybody who falls in love is a freak. It’s a crazy thing to do. It’s kind of like a form of socially acceptable insanity.”

Theordore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix, ‘Gladiator’) is a lonely man who is going through a prolonged and reluctant divorce, working as a personal letter writer for other people, he puts complex emotions into words for strangers, but is unable to develop his own relationships. When he upgrades to a new operating system with advanced artificial intelligence called Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson), he becomes drawn to her view of the world and the two become close… very close!

A similar idea to this was featured in an episode of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ when Raj fell in love with Siri, but here the idea of a lonely man who has been disappointed by human relationships and so becomes unusually close to his OS is fleshed out for a feature film length. Funnily enough, though high-concepts like this are often great in short form, then fall flat when stretched out, I didn’t feel that to be the case here. The slightly futuristic world that Theodore lives in is so familiar to our own, filmed in beautifully architectural parts of L.A. and Shanghai. All the technology, while not in every home right now, is available, so rather than viewers merely seeing things as a sci-fi futuristic scenario, the focus is kept on the interpersonal relationships that take place rather than the time or setting.

All other relationships shown in the film are troubled and flawed in some way, thus making his unusual one with Samantha seem a lot more logical, reasonable, and understandable. His estranged wife (Rooney Mara) is said to be in need of medication and was raised without praise from her parents, making her always in need of his approval. Theodore goes on a blind date with Amelia (Olivia Wilde) and they hit it off brilliantly over dinner, but this disintegrates instantly afterwards due to commitment issues and her calling him ‘creepy’ without much reason except possibly alcohol. His best friend Amy (Amy Adams) is married, and while they dated briefly in college remain good friends, yet her own marriage ends as her overbearing husband becomes a monk. Even a woman who Theodore randomly connects with online for some ‘flirtation’ is quickly shown to be certifiably crazy!

So, with all these human relationships being troubled as they are, dating an intelligent and witty OS with the undeniably sexy voice of Scarlett Johansson becomes an increasingly rational option in comparison. What makes it even more incredible is that he’s not alone, and so when he finally opens up to Amy about his new girlfriend being an OS, the revelation is met with “what’s it like” rather than, what are you doing?”

The whole film is beautifully shot, and filled with a great quality cast that put in a variety of performances as each of their roles show distinctive qualities. Amy Adams is far removed from the glamorous image as seen in ‘American Hustle’ or the confident and plucky Lois Lane in ‘Man of Steel’, here much more insecure and muted to fill the role of a best friend well. Joaquin Phoenix is well cast, his withdrawn and lonely Theodore wouldn’t attract any attention in the street or on the subway, but then when his relationship is flourishing, Phoenix wonderfully makes the same man come alive with enthusiasm and joy for life, the transformation is excellently conveyed and helps to negate the expected audience reactions to his romance as the viewer is uplifted along with him.

Then there’s Scarlett Johansson… or at least her voice! When filming, the voice of Samantha was provided by an on-set Samantha Morton (‘John Carter‘), who was later replaced. Johansson’s voice is distinctive, incredibly feminine, and conveys all the tones, nuances, and rasps that distinguish it from the clearly electronic Siri or any other attempts at a digital speech system. While deemed ineligible for most acting awards owing to not actually being on screen at all in the film, Scarlett Johansson did win the award for ‘Best Actress’ at the Rome film festival for the role, as well as other wins and nominations in other awards.

One of my favorite parts of Spike Jonze’s direction and the editing, is how in many scenes, Theodore’s mind goes elsewhere while doing something or talking to someone. This is shown in flashes and glimpses of memories that are loosely related to his present actions, but it’s a beautifully human thing to do, that we are often thinking about or remembering something else even when talking to somebody or engaged in a task. This wonderfully adds weight to the arguments that arise between Theodore and Samantha when he discovers that she’s often doing other things or talking to other people, even when talking to him, a facet of her ability to multitask as a consciousness without a body. It causes friction between them, yet may be one of the most compelling evidences of her developing sense of self.

A very believable sci-fi concept that is acted out very well, that could elicit any number of reactions from viewers depending on how much you go with or resist the way that this romance is presented as a relationship that’s as valid as any other.