Best and Worst of 2018

Even before this year began, I had my doubts about the film line up. There were a lot of franchises I didn’t care about, a lot of unknowns, and a lot of straight up bad films. This year has been quite intense for me personally also, which didn’t make things any easier for Cinema Cocoa. We only have forty-five films this year, which is a record low…

Nearly all of them are theatrical releases, so I dispensed with the “rental” list this year. But you can be assured that there were no notable films evicted from the list this way; the top ten best and worst are mostly unaffected. The exception is Loving Vincent, which climbed up to the 6th spot overall.

In terms of the films, the year has indeed been incredibly lacklustre. Ever since Marvel/Disney’s colossal Avengers: Infinity War, the year got progressively worse. From the bad: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Nun, The Predator, Robin Hood, to the absurd: Rampage, The Meg, The Happytime Murders. There was also just a lot of average experiences through and through… There are probably only five or six movies this year I would openly recommend for people to watch.

As I say, forty-four films is not a lot for me. There are many I missed, some I have already mentioned. I apologise if your favourite film isn’t listed!

Theatrical Releases of 2018

1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Released in January 2018 for the UK (2017 for the USA), Three Billboards is a shoe-in for the top spot for this list. Director Martin Donagh delivers a multi-layered movie that provides all: thrills, sadness, laughs, dramatic heft and some of the most interesting character arcs in recent memory. Powerhouse performances from everyone, especially Frances McDormand.
Ambiguity is the name of the game, as character motivations twist and change as the story, based off true events even, spiral out of control. If you haven’t seen the film yet, you absolutely must.
– Read the review

2. The Shape of Water
Director Guillermo Del Toro is back!
There is something fun about going to see a Del Toro creature-feature romance movie that has been widely publicised; the general audiences who don’t know the sorts of stories Del Toro tells weren’t prepared for The Shape of Water. Yet, wonderfully, it won a truckload of acclaim, including Best Picture and Direction awards at the Academy.
Beautifully shot, with Del Toro coming back to the skills he showed in his pioneering Pan’s Labyrinth, but with a retro 1950s aesthetic. The film is crammed with humour, gore, violence, sexuality, and espionage. Sally Hawkins playing a fabulous role alongside Doug Jones’s monster, while Michael Shannon fulfils the Del Toro villain template wonderfully.
Classic and new at the same time, we need more films like this.
– Read the review

3. Bohemian Rhapsody
A surprise hit, I did not expect this film to affect me as greatly as it did. Despite Bohemian Rhapsody having troubles behind the scenes, with star and director locking horns constantly, and the director being replaced at the end of filming… it is incredible that Rami Malek was still able to deliver such an awesome performance as the music and cultural icon Freddie Mercury.
Queen’s music is always a hit, and with that soundtrack you can get away with almost anything. I do not know the story accuracy with real events, as these things are often biased or skewed when transitioned into film, but the end result was massively entertaining, compelling and heartfelt.
Easily one of the most emotional films I have seen this year.
– Read the review

4. Lady Bird
Films come and films go, acting like they have grasped human emotion and relationships, often missing the point with cliche or contrivances. Not Lady Bird. One of many “coming of age” movies, but the label does not cover it all; this film is packed with honesty and the most bluntly delivered humour in recent years.
Its sharp wit and cutting social commentary comes through with its representation of generational conflict, namely between a mother and daughter, controlling but endlessly compassionate versus rebellious but free-spirited. Even the ugliest of human behaviour is captured with an honesty not shown in other films.
Definitely one to watch, and likely to become hugely underrated. Emotionally heartfelt, the humour keeps you buoyant through the reality displayed.
– Read the review

5. Avengers: Infinity War
Marvel’s MCU has not had a film enter my top ten in the last three years (at least), that makes for seven movies! They have had a dip in quality with the rise of the “formula”; they haven’t been bad (except maybe Doctor Strange), but they have been somewhat worse: They have been “okay”.
There was a lot riding on Infinity War (part 1), the sum accumulation of ten years, nineteen movies with a continuous narrative. Incredibly, Infinity War did do something different! I am not sure I will forget the absolute stunned silence of a sold-out cinema screen by the ending.
While it can be hotly debated if any of this was pre-planned, and the film still has an excessive use of CGI in places, and we have the reality that most of the consequences can be retconned / undone immediately… the film was still an awesome experience, and that silence of the theatre… It deserves to be recognised. I was giggling in perverse glee; the writers had done something spectacular.
– Read the review

6. Deadpool 2
The other side of Marvel movies have been consistently high in my lists. Logan was third last year, and Deadpool’s first outing was eighth in 2016. Deadpool 2 was mostly up against it; the pioneer that caused a resurgence of R-rated comic book movies not seen in over a decade, a lightning-in-a-bottle movie, without a returning director. Could it be as fun a second time?
Surprisingly yes. Without the origin story hamstringing the narrative, we get Deadpool being Deadpool. With his meta-humour, pop-culture riffing jokes and self-defecating satire, we were ready for more. With more characters for Ryan Reynolds to play off of, especially the deadpan Josh Brolin as Cable, this was a dynamite experience of comic book stylings.
Dubstep never dies.
– Read the review

7. Bumblebee
It has been a hard road for Transformer fans. Perhaps Bumblebee is seen by many as a “dying gasp” of a tired franchise… but for me, the reality is, Bumblebee is the first honest Transformers movie. Without Michael Bay, finally, the franchise can have a renaissance of sorts, despite still being a prequel to the 2007 film.
With everything dialled back and simplified, we actually get characters who are human. No wailing, screaming man-children, no objectified women draped over cars, no Transformers brutally killed off or simplified into racist stereotypes… Here we have Hailee Steinfeld, a girl who feels alienated and alone, a young girl wanting to live her life, and Bumblebee, an alien robot feeling alone and hunted by two Decepticons. The comedy is on point, the pacing is tight, and the action is actually readable!
For me, this is the start that the series should have had… and it is a bittersweet feeling.
– Read the review

8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
By rights, Into the Spider-Verse should be higher, but my Transformer fanboying is hardwired. The Spider-Man character has been through the wringer over the last decade, and only recently has he found his footing in the MCU. Sony Pictures have been the direct cause for all the problems… yet their new animation studio has proven everyone wrong with this stunningly vibrant, funny, and unique film.
Taking a Lego Movie-level of self-awareness, the film explores some of comic-books more bizarre facets: the multi-verse. What happens when you showcase all the different iterations of a character at once? All with eye-popping animation, with great concept design and comic book stylings.
Perhaps one for the geeks, Spider-fans, and animation fans more than anyone else, but assuredly one of the best movies Sony Pictures has made in many, many, many years.
– Read the review

9. First Man
From the director of La La Land and Whiplash, two excellent films of differing personalities, comes yet another unique film from Damien Chazelle. A biopic of Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on The Moon in the 1960s, and all of the dangers that this – now often trivialised – event entailed.
Space travel is something we, as humanity, should be exploring right now, and any film that showcases these incredible feats of human endurance and courage, will always bring great emotion and passion from me. Be it Apollo 13, or Hidden Figures. Certainly, Chazelle made some unusual direction choices here (too much shaky camera) but the film remains an important slice of history. The film’s true weight though comes from the reality of it; the cost, both financially and in human lives, gives stars Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy tonnes of chemistry, as well as material to work with.
Sometimes, the history of a movie elevates it above some of its flaws.
– Read the review

10. Coco
Hard to believe that Coco was released this year, but it did indeed have a January release for the UK, and it very much squeaks into the top ten.
Coco is perhaps more of a sleeper-hit for Pixar than most, although for me Pixar has been falling behind recently (Finding Dory underwhelmed, Cars 3 was… Cars 3, and I’ve not even seen Good Dinosaur yet!) and it is laboured with comparisons to 2014’s Book of Life.
But Coco is a nice little story with gorgeous animation. In fact, the main reason it is so high on this list is because of the animation. The story has its shortcomings, but good lord does it look incredible.
– Read the review

All the other films, that didn’t quite make it into the top (or bottom) tens, in descending order!

Isle of Dogs
Black Panther
Christopher Robin
Mission: Impossible: Fallout
Ant-Man & The Wasp
A Quiet Place
Mortal Engines
The Post
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Ready Player One
Hotel Artemis
Incredibles 2
Sicario 2: Soldado
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
Tomb Raider

Now for the bottom ten! In ascending order of badness.

10. Yardie
I feel bad for having Yardie here… The directing debut from Idris Elba should not be considered bad. I should have watched Peter Rabbit, just to push this off the bottom list.
Yardie is a really competently directed feature from Elba, with a great attention to the soundtrack and the time period; there’s a real sense of personal investment in the story.
But, the screenplay was just predictable, with twists coming from forced character motivations develop from nowhere, and the story focused on the wrong elements. Aml Ameen as the lead character Dennis was great, it would be good to see him in more movies now. But Stephen Graham’s character… that accent was ridiculous. Laughter from others in the cinema was not unwarranted.
– Read the review

9. Tag
What happens when you really, really want to see Jeremy Renner run in slo-mo, but you don’t quite know how to make a convincing movie? You get Tag.
Tag got people into the theatres by telling the public how it was “based off a true story”, in which kids play an ongoing game of Tag long into their adult lives. Great! Even having Renner as the undefeated champion and others like Ed Helms trying to catch him is great fun!
But… when the film ends, the audience is left confused by what tone the film was going for. While toying with the idea of “maturity vs play”, Tag forgets to be about anything, instead it wastes time with bit characters talking about irrelevant things. Somehow it became a missed opportunity about a game of Tag.
– Read the review

8. Rampage
Rampage isn’t a bad movie either… but it deliberately isn’t a good movie either. It is actually hard to elaborate on it, because it lives off its own absurdity, where Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson battles against giant mutant animals.
It isn’t anything more than that, with over-the-top Saturday morning cartoon villains, Johnson doing the eyebrow thing, and any “moments” of drama quickly and deliberately usurped by “the monkey just gave you the finger!” jokes (yes, that is a running joke). Really, for this to be considered better than anything higher on this list would be a crime.
– Read the review

7. The Cloverfield Paradox
Okay, now we are starting to get into some bad eggs.
Once called The God Particle, The Cloverfield Paradox was an interesting example of the Netflix graveyard of movie production. With 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane being a huge sleeper-hit (it ranked 7th highest on this website) there was probably a lot of production studio hype (and hope) behind this movie. But upon test screenings, the movie floundered, and it was quickly decided that loses would be cut by releasing the film on Netflix instead of a global release. Going live immediately after the American Superbowl.

What we got was not a clever J.J. Abrams produced “Cloverfield” project, instead we got a franchise killer. The meta-narrative of Cloverfield movies completely outed, the mystery and intrigue around the unique anthology series utterly destroyed by explaining: “Everything is random, it was all caused by this event, this is no longer a rare anthology series, it is a running narrative like everything else”. Shame.
– Read the review

6. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Speaking of nonsense.
I wasn’t a particular fan of the first Fantastic Beasts movie, but it looked pretty at times. It was a film of two halves as well, two halves that did not mesh, as screenplayer writer J.K. Rowling attempted to weave a complex narrative from a monster guidebook.
The Crimes of Grindelwald is exactly what people feared it would be; a total mess of narrative absurdities, contradictions, and revisionist trappings. As someone who does not know the Harry Potter universe, this film does nothing to guide you, throwing you into a nonstop slew of jargon and names, while fans are insulted by their favourite fiction being uprooted.
A villain who doesn’t do anything, a plot that is completely contrived, characters who had died being alive again without questions asked… the only thing saving it is some neat visuals and ideas sprinkled throughout. How can there be three more of these to come??
– Read the review

5. Hereditary
Yep, so here comes the rotten fruit, flying directly into my face.
Hereditary is a critical success; with almost everyone saying it is one of the best and most original horrors made in decades, to be considered as timeless as Halloween and The Exorcist.
But Hereditary is not that. The film starts strong; great atmosphere and a dollhouse thematic device, but as it goes on it quickly becomes tedious and laughably absurd. Poor Gabriel Bryne, his character was wonderful as he looks perplexed and baffled as his wife goes bananas. Films like this should maintain the psychological horror of their early stages, because when the “scary” stuff becomes a reality, it often becomes completely farcical.
I was bored and laughing by the end.
– Read the review

4. Downsizing
Talk about missing the point.
Downsizing is a screenplay gone mad. Hey, this is a film about the world suffering over population so we shrink people down to solve the problem! Hey, that could be cool, it is always fun to see actors interacting with giant versions of every day objects, along with the interplay with regular people and tiny people…

Oh wait, this film is about a man feeling small and in servitude, remaining small and in servitude, while the world is about to die from nuclear destruction, and Christoph Waltz is there, on a boat with Udo Kier. Matt Damon’s character has no arc, nothing happens for him, despite everything happening to him. The plot is baffling underwhelming. The film does nothing with scale; the little people just live in regular houses with regular fittings. How can they have centimetre tall coffee machines? Water molecules would be massive, no??
– Read the review

3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
The big three. Definitely the worst of the worst.
I did not hate 2015’s Jurassic World. Thematically it was in keeping with the original film (more than its other sequels ever were) but boy did Fallen Kingdom crash and burn spectacularly. Character motivations out of the window, useless bit characters who are there for a cheap laugh and little else, scenes that parody or simply repeat from the previous films only worse. How can 2018 look worse than 1993!?
The characters have no emotional drives; they quite literally just run from explosions for the entire runtime. Bad CGI elements, bad editing, bad sound editing (how can it be so bad that you notice this sort of thing??)
Just stop with the Jurassic Park movies… You’ve ruined it.
– Read the review

2. The Nun
Oh, no… Not this one.
James Wan’s The Conjuring 2 was stupid, yes, it was. The first film was markedly better than it, but apparently everyone thought the sequel’s multitude of stupid monsters, namely The Crooked Man and The Nun were so good they needed spin-off movies…

Okay, so maybe it will work–
The Nun is a total travesty of horror movie making.
From the opening scenes to the final act, everything is stupid. Quick! Release the ancient evil from captivity! WHY? Well, there’s no story if we don’t!
Set in Romania, but don’t worry, everyone speaks perfect English, while the English-speaking Frenchman is called Frenchie. It is bafflingly stupid to behold; no one behaves like a normal person would, even the most logically-minded character. The Nun is not scary; her power of throwing people into walls repeatedly is not threatening when no one is injured from it.

This movie is utterly terrible. Boring and repetitive, and not even in a fun way.
– Read the review

1. The Predator
I was always an Alien fan over the Predator, so when a Shane Black directed reboot was announced, I thought: Eh, Predator can weather it, it will be fine.

The Predator isn’t one of the stupidest films ever made, it is also one of the worst things to happen to a horror/action franchise. Moreso than Alien: Covenant.
A film about aliens who hunt people for sport with horrific weapons, how can it have absolutely zero tension? None of the human characters are afraid of the monster; they just make jokes continuously. The plot follows a young boy with Autism, and the script defends him to the hilt, but also pokes fun at the guy with Tourette’s. How about Olivia Munn, who’s character literally shoots herself in the foot at the start of the film, only to tackle a super Predator at the end of the film. Or, said young boy destroys a house (with people inside!) and there are no consequences. No mental scarring, no police, nothing.

Then you realise it was written by the man who wrote Robocop 3.
– Read the review

I am quite glad 2018 is over! In fact, already looking towards 2019, it looks more positive for movie experiences. We can expect:
The conclusion to the already successful Avengers: Infinity War with Avengers; Endgame, as well as the possible beginnings of the new team, Marvel’s Captain Marvel. They also have the next Spider-Man entry Far From Home, which hopefully builds from the good foundation of Homecoming.
There’s also Godzilla: King of Monsters, which looks to be promising an actual look at the classic monsters (amazing, right?), and It: Chapter Two, which if the first film is anything to go by, should be excellent. We also have John Wick 3: Parabellum, which we can sincerely hope will be one of the best action films of the decade. There’s also How to Train Your Dragon 3, which as a fan of the series so far… I have high expectations for. And surprising to me… Detective Pikachu, which actually looks interesting!

Of course, there’s a lot of oddities as well. M. Night Shyamalan’s attempt at an expanded universe, Glass, which no one asked for, as well as Men In Black: International doing the same thing. Toy Story 4 is frankly… a bad idea, but we will see. We have a reboot of Hellboy, which judging from the trailer… will make me miss Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman.

Of course, there are some bad signs already… Angry Birds 2? X-Men: Dark Phoenix? Another doomed Terminator film, the ill-fated Sonic the Hedgehog movie… Disney is wrecking everyone with three of their live action remakes… count them: The Lion King, Dumbo, and Aladdin. Will any of them feel necessary, let alone good?

Then there’s two heavy hitters: Frozen 2, and the highly questionable Star Wars IX

At least it sounds like it will be a more interesting year!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Joe A. says:

    Yeah. RIP Predator franchise, at least for another 10 years 🙁

    1. cinemacocoa says:

      Yeah :S
      What’s worse, after those ten years, Disney will have a go… Since they will probably get the rights from Fox!

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