Screen Nerds: The Must See Films of 2018

Woah. Welcome to the end of the longest year on record, twelve months so full of global bullshit that it feels like it's been decades since even June. Sadly, I haven't been able to see quite as many films as I would've liked in 2018 - a combination of real life getting in the way, and the simple fact that my local cinema seems dedicated to the cause of advertising interesting movies and then refusing to actually show the bloody things - so if your favourite film doesn't appear in this list, well there's a fair chance that might be because I just haven't seen it. Either that, or you have crap taste and I personally hate you. Either way, below are the films that were released in the UK in 2018 that I would call "unmissable", films that any fan of cinema owes it to themselves to see.



So, in release date order;



Black Panther



I mean, obviously. I'm struggling to think of another film that had the kind of immediate cultural impact that Black Panther had, and while few would argue that it's director Ryan Coogler's best film, there are also few would argue that it doesn't belong somewhere near the top of a list titled "Best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe". Sure, the CGI is a little rough at times, and that can't help but leave something of a sour taste in the mouth. But between the great performances, the fascinating characters (both heroic and villainous), the deeply thematically rich story and the brilliant Bond-esque middle section, Black Panther still ends up being one of the very best blockbusters released this year.



You can read my full review of Black Panther here.





Phantom Thread

"Kingsman: The Secret Service." In the film and trailer, when the new Kingsman recruits have their first night's sleep interrupted by a deluge of water pouring into the dorm, on-set the scene went horrifically wrong. As Matthew Vaughn recalls "I shouted 'action!', the computer got it wrong and vrrrrssshh, everyone was twenty feet down underwater. Cameras, sound guys... Guys were in waders full of water, panic, everyone diving in and pulling people out." The set, painstakingly planned and rehearsed using height markers and computer-programmed water tanks, washed away in a near-biblical flood when said computers went rogue. "Those actors weren't acting, they were absolutely terrified," shudders Vaughn. "It was awful for the first day of filming."



I'll admit it - before now I've only ever been left somewhat cold by the work of Paul Thomas Anderson, impressed by the immaculate craft of his movies but ultimately unable to connect with the material in any meaningful way. That changed with Phantom Thread , a film that was able to put me on the edge of my seat multiple times despite being about nothing more than the relationship between a high society fashion designer and a waitress in 1950's London. Led by two simply incredible performances from Daniel Day Lewis and Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread is at once a critical look at the "tortured genius" trope and a fascinating character study that takes great pleasure in putting us in the trenches of the battleground that is their dysfunctional relationship, which when combined with Jonny Greenwood's brilliant score and Anderson's rich writing and masterful direction creates a film that grabbed me early on and simply didn't let go. I know that it's not going to be for everyone. But if it does end up being for you? Well, you're in for a real treat.





Avengers: Infinity War



I'm not going to pretend that Avengers: Infinity War is perfect. Hell, it took a second viewing to convince me that it was actually a good movie, rather than pretty mediocre one that just so happened to be aimed directly at me with an almost laser like precision. But if we're talking about films that any fan of cinema owes it to themselves to see, I don't see how Avengers: Infinity War could possibly be missed out, what with it being not just an incredible crowd-pleaser of a movie that isn't afraid to go where no-one thought it would go, but also the culmination (well, a culmination - Avengers: Endgame is just around the corner, after all) of what Marvel Studios have been doing for the last decade, redefining what blockbusters are and can be in the process. It's big and it's loud and it's rushed in places that shouldn't be rushed - but it's also a blast from start to finish, throwing characters at one another in a smorgasbord of comic book mayhem that I can't help but adore.

The Movie "Paranormal Activity" cost less than $15,000 to make but grossed over $193,000,000.



You can read my full review of Avengers: Infinity War here.





Hereditary



Hereditary is another film that I can easily see folk bouncing off if they aren't in the right frame of mind or simply aren't willing to take a film on its own terms. Hell, there's a fairly solid argument to be made that Hereditary could possibly be even better (or at least more consistent) if it ditched the more overt horror stuff entirely and instead focused on the family drama that is its foundation. But at the same time, Hereditary even with its debatable flaws still managed to be easily the tensest and most gripping film I've seen all year, peaking with a scene around about halfway through that is hands down my favourite scene in any film I've seen all year, so anxiety inducing and tragic and downright terrifying in a very real sense that I doubt I'll ever be able to fully erase it from my mind. In a just world, both Toni Collette and Alex Wolff would end up seeing some major praise come awards time for their frankly phenomenal performances as a mother and son with a deeply strained relationship - but sadly, the major awards still seem reluctant to recognise genre movies as legitimate art. Shame.



You can read my full review of Hereditary here.





Mission: Impossible - Fallout



A film so good that its trailer (still the best trailer of 2018 in my eyes) even managed to make an Imagine Dragons song seem exciting. It's not as fun as its predecessor, but when that's pretty much the only thing that stops me from enjoying a film as much as I did the excellent Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation ? Well, that still makes for a bloody great action movie indeed, delivering all the thrills and unbelievable practical stunt work that you would expect from a Mission: Impossible movie alongside McQuarrie's increasingly tight direction, another great use of the ensemble cast and Henry Cavill's single best role to date. If there was a better action movie released this year, no one told me about it.



You can read my full review of Mission: Impossible - Fallout here.





"The Wolf Of Wall Street." The actors snorted crushed B vitamins for scenes that involved cocaine. Jonah Hill claimed that he eventually became sick with bronchitis after so much inhaling and had to be hospitalized.

BlackKklansman



“I know writers who use subtext, and they're all cowards.” - Garth Marenghi



No, it ain't exactly subtle, and I understand the argument that for a film about both racism and cops, BlackKklansman has surprisingly little to say about how those two things interact with one another. But what it lacks in subtlety, BlackKklansman more than makes up for in sheer entertainment value, offering a stylish, engaging, funny, tense and ultimately incredibly relevant couple of hours that hits like a ton of bricks thanks to its incredibly powerful ending montage. Add into that Spike Lee's fantastic direction and the great performances given by John David Washington and Adam Driver, and BlackKklansman is comfortably one of 2018's best movies.





Mandy



Have you ever longed for a movie that can only be described by the phrase "dark space fantasy wizard metal acid trip Nicolas Cage cult revenge thriller fever dream"? Well, buddy... first of all, you've got problems. That's an oddly specific and quite strange thing to crave. But more importantly, boy oh boy do I have the film for you. Writer/director Panos Cosmatos' Mandy is nothing less than An Experience, a pure and beautiful example of the magic (and insanity) that can happen when a director with a vision is given the means and freedom to make that vision come to life, and while I know for sure that it isn't going to be An Experience that everyone will enjoy, I also know for sure it was definitely An Experience that I was absolutely spellbound by, warts and all. Trying to criticise Mandy beyond that is pointless - it is what it is, an audiovisual assault on the mind and senses, and if it wasn't exactly what it is, well, it just wouldn't be Mandy . And that'd be a real shame.





Red Dead Redemption 2



You see this? This is what you all get for saying that Twin Peaks: The Return - an 18 episode long season of TV - was one of the best films of 2017, just because you didn't want to admit that even a great TV show is still a TV show. Arseholes.



(Although for real, the increasingly large disconnect between Rockstar's free-form open worlds and the incredibly linear, hand-holdy missions set within them means they should probably just start making films instead.)





Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse



Easily the best animated film of the year and quite possibly one of the best superhero films ever made, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is nothing short of a delight from start to finish, a film bursting at the seams with innovation and heart that demands your attention from frame one and never wavers in its commitment to earning it. The animation is gorgeous, the characters compelling, the story engrossing and the comedy consistently on-point, of all which adds up to create something that I can already see myself watching and rewatching time and time again. If there's only one recommendation that you take away from this list, make it this one - you won't be disappointed.

Three Major Horror Franchises Were Inspired by the Same Serial Killer. It takes one particularly terrifying creep to inspire Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, and Leatherface, but that’s the legacy left by horrifying serial killer Ed Gein. When he was finally caught and his house of horrors in Plainfield, Wisconsin, discovered, police found masks and lampshades made from human skin, among plenty of other atrocities. His astonishing depravity proved a source of creative inspiration.



You can read my full review of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse here.





And as usual, below are some honourable mentions, films that while not quite "Must See" are still well worth a watch for one reason or another.



The Post - Solid old-fashioned filmmaking, based on a true story and bolstered by two fantastic performances from Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. Yet further proof that even a minor Spielberg movie is still a better movie than most filmmakers will ever manage to make. Full review here.



I, Tonya - Yes, it's pretty much just a Scorsese imitation throughout. But it's a pretty good imitation, which when combined with Margot Robbie's brilliant performance as the title character makes I, Tonya well worth a watch. Full review here.



Lady Bird - It's incredibly well-made, but what makes Lady Bird special is how it's so accurately able to capture a sense of time and place, that short period as a teen that everyone has lived through when you're just about to leave school, a goodbye to youth as you've known it as you make the first of many steps into actual adulthood. For me it was the summer of 2008 in sunny Britain, yet despite how different my adolescence would have been to writer/director Greta Gerwig's, the universal truth of the emotions and feelings behind Lady Bird make it nothing less than the most deeply relatable coming-of-age movie I've ever seen.



Mary and the Witch's Flower - It's not Studio Ghibli, but I suspect if that name had appeared at the start of the film rather than Studio Ponoc, people would have been a lot more generous towards this film than they were. It's charming, imaginative, and beautifully animated throughout, and I can't wait to see what Studio Ponoc do next.



A Quiet Place - It's let down somewhat by a fairly predictable ending, but as an exercise in how to effectively build tension on top of itself and an example of "but, therefore" storytelling, A Quiet Place is downright masterful. Far more than just a gimmick-y concept. Full review here.



Widows - Simply put, Widows nothing more or less than a really solid and grounded heist film with a streak of social conscience running through it. We desperately need more films like this - adult-orientated, mid-budget movies led by genuine stars and directed by someone with genuine talent. More conventional than anything director Steve McQueen has made in the past, but no less effective for it. Full review here.

"Django Unchained." When Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) smashes his hand on the dinner table, DiCaprio accidentally crushed a small stemmed glass with his palm and really began to bleed. He ignored it, stayed in character, and continued with the scene. Quentin Tarantino was so impressed that he used this take in the final print, and when he called cut, the room erupted in a standing ovation.



The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - Six unrelated Western stories, only one of which I didn't like. Worth seeing for the opening and closing stories alone, although I doubt many people will walk away without having enjoyed at least a couple of the stories in between. If you don't already like the Coen Brothers, this probably won't change your mind - if you do, I doubt you'll end up feeling disappointed.



Creed II - No, it's not as good as Ryan Coogler's magnificent Creed . But it still manages to be a worthy sequel and a really entertaining movie in its own right, thanks mainly to a surprisingly solid script, some excellent boxing sequences and Michael b. Jordan's lead performance. Full review here.