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.


Top 2017: Movies

The movies I most enjoyed in 2017 mainly consists of comic adaptations, funny that. I’ve looked back through my diary and considered what most stands out in my memory as the best new films I’ve seen this year. I’m not really including older films in this, even those that I saw early this year but were within the catchment area of the last awards season. Please note though that if I was including those, my number one without any doubt would be ‘Arrival’.

Again, I wanted a top 10, turns out that due to the above criteria, I have less, and a few things I’ll mention at the end. Unlike my Top TV of 2017 list, I have tried to rank these in an order though some are really close and some I’d need to see at least once more to be sure.

1. Baby Driver – It’s wonderful and completely my kind of thing, a slick heist movie with a cracking soundtrack and some beautifully choreographed stunt driving. I think it’s so good that ideally it should be getting considered for awards, though there’s a chance it’ll get largely overlooked if not completely. I’ve seen it at the cinema and at home, effective both times and I’m confident it’ll become one of my go-to films for when I want something that won’t fail to entertain me, as has long been the case with Edgar Wright’s ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’.

2. Thor: Ragnarok – Sadly I’ve only seen this once but I’m looking forward to seeing it again. A stand-out in both the Thor franchise and the larger MCU, it strikes a unique tone and takes the characters and story in ways that could’ve been risky but work so perfectly. Far more enjoyable than ‘The Dark World’ this may spell a new style for Marvel if Taika Waititi returns to direct again for them, if not, I think it’ll go unmatched for a long time.

3. Dunkirk – It’s about to be considered an awards frontrunner, there are many reasons why. I’ll be posting a full review very soon but I was waiting to see it again at home before putting all my thoughts together. Nolan is a masterful storyteller and here it’s done through the action and edition far more than the minimal dialogue. All the film elements are brought skillfully together to keep it concise but powerful, truly a film that will hold up under future scrutiny.

4. Spider-Man: Homecoming – Rebooting really closely to films that were of moderate success is not an easy proposition, and as a fan of Andrew Garfield in the role I was dubious. Marvel’s expert leadership was the key to success this time round, giving us a younger version of Peter Parker that the other films minimised to insignificance, with a deliberate John Hughes feel that it falls slightly short on but being in that ballpark is good enough to distinguish itself refreshingly.

5. Wonder Woman – I don’t love the film, but I do love the tone and what it represents for the DCEU, a brief glimmer of hope that they could do better, though it was all but extinguished with ‘Justice League’, a film that’s not close to making my list even if I went for 10. If the third act had been different this would have been higher on my list and I might have actually loved it but I think the final battle scene and how the film develops into that lets it down.

Honourable mentions: Many of these are films I need to see again to know better how I feel about it on repeat viewing. ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ really entertained me as a regular Sci-Fi fan, though I know many hardcore ‘Star Wars’ fans were less happy with it. ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ is a brilliant third act to the ‘Apes’ trilogy and I feel the fourth film is warranted though sadly unlikely. ‘Split’ has also stayed in my mind for months, not that I loved the majority of the film but the very end made it genius and I need to see it again in the new light of the twist. Also, I predicted months ago that ‘Blade Runner 2049’ would be excellent and in line for awards, though somehow it underperformed at the Box Office, those ‘flop’ hinting headlines really belie a film that’s incredibly shot (by the ever-nominated Roger Deakins) and the perfect balance between a respectful sequel and compelling original. All of these bear a second viewing and would likely round out my top 10 if I was sure enough to enumerate that far.

#98 Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Dir: Rupert Sanders

Snow White: Troll Whisperer…

Obviously based upon the classic Grimm brothers fairytale, with much of the darker thematic elements re-inserted, this film sees Kristen Stewart as Snow White, pitted against her evil stepmother Ravenna (Charlize Theron) who is determined to hold on to her immortal youth by following the advice of her magic mirror. When Snow White flees into the forest, a skilled huntsman (Chris Hemsworth… yup Thor) is hired to lead Ravenna’s forces to her. However tables are turned thanks to the help of a posse of Dwarfs (including Nick Frost, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, and Toby Jones).

I’m far from being a fan of K-Stew, I find her really bland, and I couldn’t really care much less about what she did or didn’t do with the director Rupert Sanders. There’s not a lot that can spice her up, though she looks very Queen Elizabeth 1st in her armour, which is a good source to draw from. It’s easy to see why she was cast, her skin is very pale (and not due to her being a vampire this time) and she has a look that some may find attractive… I can’t help but wonder if there might have been a better actress, but to be fair she does fine as the story is quite exciting around her even if she’s consistently dull.

Chris Hemsworth however is much better, his charisma must be part of the reason there are rumours that a proposed sequel will be focused on his character (the other reasons are unrelated to filmic causes). In this he sports a Scottish accent, but we can forgive him that, as the man who plays Thor so very well is clearly suited to a role as a huntsman who is strong and skilled in the woods, it’s no stretch of the imagination.

Though the film has both SW and the Huntsman in the title, stealing every scene she’s in is Charlize Theron. Putting such an experienced and versatile actress on screen against Stewart makes her shine even more as the truly dark and wicked stepmother, Ravenna. The name has been capitalised upon nicely, playing on multiple links to Ravens, including wearing jewelery that looks like claws, and a scene in which she transforms into a flock of them and later reforms from a puddle of black goo and melted feathers. Theron is incredibly youthfully attractive for the most part of the story, and then looks more like Joanna Lumley when she ages. It’s a more subtle change than the classic Disney animation in this respect, and really quickly leaves that film as a distant childhood memory as Ravenna establishes her character as suited to a for more mature audience.

What struck me was how brilliantly fantastical this all is, with a beautifully computer generated mirror that is much more than a creepy face, trolls that are not in the slightest bit cuddly, and of course dark and evil Ravenna. All this and more totally takes the story into the highest levels of fantasy and beyond child-friendly Disney animations. This film aims to get closer to the dark tone of the Grimm fairytale, but still not quite dark enough to match it possibly because that would require it to likely be a whole rating higher and thus lose the ‘Twi-hard’ teen audience that it capitalised upon. In doing so however, it loses a little of the heart and charm that we associate with the fairytale, as new tough Snow White is more a leader of troops into battle and Dwarves who aren’t against killing, rather than the “high-ho” and dishwashing characters that might first pop to mind.

It’s a shame that the focus was so scandalously on the cast and crews personal lives when this was released, as the film is a really very good fantasy, and a very promising feature-film debut by the philandering director. Hopefully if he does direct the sequel it will not spoil those good beginnings, and instead capitalise on the well-imagined fantasy world and make the most of the (unlikely to catch his eye) Huntsman.