2018 in Review : 20-11

We reach the penultimate list, those movies that came close to making the top ten, but inevitably came just short. That being said, this is, in my opinion at least, a very strong 20-11, well outshining the equivalent list of 2017, so in that sense I am happy.

In a happy coincedence as well, a fair amount of the below have already been reviewed on this site, meaning that there are a few hyperlinks for you to click once you’ve got to the end.

20) Game Night

Cast : Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Jesse Plemons, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnusson, Sharon Horgan, Kylie Bunbury and Lamorne Morris.
Plot : Annie (McAdams) and Max (Bateman) met at a quiz and now host a weekly game night with friends and family, but Max becomes disheartened when his successful brother Brooks (Chandler) says he is going to come one night and has something special lined up.
Upon arrival Brooks sets out the game that someone is going to be kidnapped, but no matter what is said it will be part of the game, but the problem with that is that Brooks is genuinely targeted for kidnapping that night, something which the others believe is part of the game. As they slowly realise that this isn’t the case they must uncover whatever clues that they can.
Why in this position? : “Game Night” was a comedy that I was actually looking forward to, it seemed to have something different about it that a lot of other comedies didn’t and some of the jokes in the trailer actually made me laugh.
On the positive side the characters are very likeable characters and the comedy is relatively fresh, with Jesse Plemons nailing his role as Gary. This is my first exposure to some of the cast and no-one puts in a bad performance. I was engaged and that is something I don’t often say about comedies.
The big problem with the movie is that the characters find out far too soon that it is no longer a game. It would have been far more effectively to have them only find out about 15/20 minutes from the end that it isn’t a game anymore, rather than about half way into the film (and it was possibly a lot sooner than that). That’s not to say it isn’t well executed, but that tiny difference could have potentially put this in the top ten for me.

19) Hotel Artemis

Cast : Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, Sterling K Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Jenny Slate, Charlie Day and Zachary Quinto
Plot : Jean (Foster) runs a hotel that doubles up as a hide-away hospital for criminals and one night Sherman (Brown) comes with his brother who is shot. She and nurse Everest (Bautista) seemingly have everything under control, even with a variety of social outcasts in the building, but before long they are put into panic mode when “The Wolf King” is on his way in for treatment.
What is even worse is that Jean insists on treating a seemingly random cop named Morgan (Slate), and as the night goes on not only does that relationship become clear, but an all-out war takes place both in and out of the complex as the emotionally unstable Crosby (Quinto) turns up.
Why in this position? : Initially “Hotel Artemis” looked like a strong contender for my top ten and I was very keen on it. The establishment of the rules and general underground world was very well done and it felt like they were setting up a franchise, but it didn’t quite stick it all of the way through and by the end I felt considerably less enthused than I had started.
Up until that point however I was very entertained. The cast, as you would expect from the names involved, are all excellent and draw you in. The near spot on casting has to be commended and I would say that in terms of casting for the roles that needed to be filled, this is as strong as anything that has been put together throughout the year.
I loved the majority of this film, but The longer it went on the harder it was to remain engaged and ultimately that is why it is slightly lower down on the list than I had initially anticipated.

18) Beautiful Boy

Cast : Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Kaitlyn Dever and Amy Ryan
Plot : David (Carell) is a successful writer but can’t seem to get the message through to his son Nic (Chalamet) that drugs are bad, and forces him into rehab as a last ditch effort. Nic escapes and is found unconscious after heavy drug taking. Despite this, Nic does start to get clean and even starts a relationship with a fellow student named Lauren (Dever).
Nic celebrates being 485 days sober with his father, but secretly is desperately struggling with his addition and trying to fight it. After having a conversation with his sponsor (Andre Royo), Nic eventually meets up with Lauren and the two do drugs. This eventually leads David to the realisation that Nic is never going to get better.
Why in this position? : “Beautiful Boy” is a film that had been on my “to watch” list for several months when it appeared as Odeon’s “Screen Unseen” in December (it doesn’t actually get released in the UK for another few weeks) something I wasn’t expecting and yet I was absolutely delighted by that. I wasn’t disappointed.
This film is great storytelling and the acting is so on point that I will go as far as saying that in terms of a cast effort, this is arguably the best performance of the year, with Chalamet taking the plaudits from the scenes in which he is either on drugs, or trying to convince his father to give him money. Carell and Chalamet are perfect for their roles.
In terms of a soundtrack this is solid, with Zola Jesus’ “Wiseblood” (Johnny Jewel Remix) proving a particular highlight, however, the reason this movie just about fails to crack the top ten is because it is too long. It lasts for around two hours and unfortunately doesn’t have enough to complete those two hours, and even worse is that the ending does feel completely predictable, with one obvious exception (!SPOILER! Nic ends up overdosing in a public toilet, but ends up surviving !SPOILER!)

17) American Animals

Cast : Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Ann Dowd and Udo Kier
Plot : Spencer (Keoghan) is going on a tour of his university’s library when he sees a very rare book that is worth around $12m. He then puts the idea in the head of friend Warren (Peters) to steal the book. Warren leaves his scholarship due to a lack of interest and goes into planning the theft full time. He soon realises that the two of them can’t do it alone and therefore recruits Chas (Jenner) and Eric (Abrahamson).
The quartet meticulously plan every little detail, but that plan goes out of the window pretty quickly and the plan needs to be started afresh.
Why in this position? “American Animals” threw me quite a bit because of a variety of reasons, not least of which being that they keep interviewing the real life counterparts at various key points during the movie, and if you’re not expecting that it can definitely throw you off, but fortunately I think it adds to the film and gives you a true sense of emotion about whatever seen you’re watching.
The casting is spot on, with all of them doing a great job in their roles and this was about as solid as any film in the latter half of the year got. You always felt that this group was never going to achieve their goals, even if you didn’t know the history of the actual heist, but you actually want them to succeed. I love that unlike certain other heist films during the year (hello Ocean’s Eight), you feel that it could go wrong at any moment and that’s what is engaging about this film.
There are still a few moments here and there where I wasn’t fully on board with everything, hence why it’s relatively low down on the list for the praise that I am giving, but on the majority I found this to be a highly enjoyable heist film.

16) Journeyman

Full Review
Cast : Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker, Paul Popplewell, Anthony Welsh and Tony Pitts
Plot : Matty (Considine) is considering retiring from boxing after one more fight to prove that he didn’t win his title by fluke. His wife Emma (Whittaker) is supportive and they have a young daughter, Mia. Matty’s fight against the confident Andre (Welsh) eventually goes his way, but several blows to the head eventually result in him collapsing at home.
Once his wakes from the coma he isn’t able to look after himself. Despite being supportive, Emma starts feeling an emotional toll and this isn’t helped when Matty starts becoming violent towards her. The final straw comes when Matty’s answer to his daughter crying is to stick her in the tumble dryer. Emma leaves Matty, but he doesn’t understand why.
In his confusion he tries to commit suicide, but after only just surviving drowning he decides to work hard to get his life back on track.
Why in this position? : “Journeyman” was a film that I had been looking to for a while, but was genuinely surprised when it got a cinema release in the first half of the year. For a change this was worth the wait.
“Journeyman” is a movie that certainly isn’t by the numbers and this is because the character of Matty is completely unpredictable, even to audience members. I was constantly on edge as his confusion leads to his previously idyllic life being destroyed. The best part is that you feel like you hate Matty for what he does, but you completely sympathise with him as well, he is a well written and realized character that despite what he does, he is hard to dislike.
This film made me feel the majority of emotions that are available and the only reason that it doesn’t feature higher up the list is the inconsistent nature of time portrayal. I love that even by the end of the film Matty isn’t back to full capacity yet, but the problem is that it is impossible to gather how long the film takes place over because of how long he seems to be in recovery, but that his infant baby never seems to age. That is the only real negative I can come up with about this otherwise excellent British movie.

15) Red Sparrow

Cast : Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenarters, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling and Joely Richardson
Plot : Veronika (Lawrence) is a famous ballerina who gets involved in an onstage accident that breaks her leg and ends her career. One day following this she is asked by her uncle to get involved in Russian Intelligence and seduce a gangster. She easily succeeds and is invited to train properly. She goes to a school run by the uncomprising Matron (Rampling), who teaches them how to use their sex appeal to get information)
Meanwhile, Nate (Edgerton) is sent home from a seemingly failed mission, but he convinces them to send him out on a new mission and here he meets Veronika on a mission. Her mission to get Nate to reveal his contact, but does Nate know what is happening?
Why in this position? : I wasn’t optimistic going into this at all, mainly because I don’t find Lawrence to be a particularly engaging actress, and her choice of projects are very rarely good, so I went into this with a very skeptical outlook and for once, I was genuinely surprised.
The story telling is simple and effective, but also a bit cat-and-mouse in nature as you’re never entirely sure on the motivations of several characters and who Dominka’s loyalties truly lay with, it constantly keeps you guessing, especially towards the end.
I can’t really go too much into this one because I only watched it once and that was right at the beginning of the year, with it being unlikely I ever will again, meaning I have forgotten for the most part why I liked it.
Also, congratulations Jeremy Irons as for the first time during the four and a bit years of this site he has starred in a film that has escaped the lower reaches of my rankings.

14) Anna and the Apocalypse

Full Review
Cast : Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins, Marli Siu, Mark Benton and Paul Kaye
Plot : Anna (Hunt) is planning for life after school and whilst her father Tony (Benton) is adamant that she will go to university, she has her heart set on travelling for a year. Headteacher Savage (Kaye) is also determined to ruin her dreams, as well as the hopes that fellow student Steph (Swire) has of raising awareness of the homeless situation in the area. What none of them know is that a zombie breakout has started.
Two days before Christmas Anna wakes up but is completely oblivious to the zombies around her as she sings her way to school, but when she meets best friend John (Cumming) in the cemetary they soon get attacked by a zombie in a snowman outfit, and after meeting up with several other students it becomes a battle of life or death.
Meanwhile, in the school the already questionable mental state of Savage starts causing issues.
Why in this position? : In a year with some very high profile music-themed movies, such as “A Star is Born” and “The Greatest Showman”, this was comfortably the best of the bunch. For a start this movie is more than the music, which is more than can be said for “Greatest Showman”, and it is relatively consistent in terms of character, unlike “A Star is Born”. That’s not to say that this is a perfect film, far from it as the vocals are decent, but certainly not as polished as those two.
This movie was very enjoyable from start to finish and this is because whilst being in three different genres (musical, horror and comedy), it doesn’t focus on any of them as the primary focus and this means that they can move the story a lot freer than if they did prioritise one, with the other two being in the background.
The characters are relatable and the relationships feel very genuine, and had it been a little bit more gripping then there is a chance that this would have made it into my top ten for the year.

13) The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Full Review

Cast : Chloe Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, John Gallagher Jr, Forest Goodluck, Dalton Harrod, Emily Skeggs and Quinn Shephard

Cameron (Moretz) goes to her prom but is caught in the back seat of a car with best friend Coley (Shephard). The two had been sharing a sexual relationship for some time and coming from a Christian family, Cameron is sent to a gay-conversion camp by her guardian. She is far from happy and struggles to fit in.

She quickly meets the owner of the camp, the enthusiastic and friendly Rick (Gallagher Jr), but Cameron struggles to adapt to life and often has sexual fantasties about Coley. She soon befriends camp rebels Jane (Lane) and Adam (Goodluck), who both pretend to be straight in order to get home, but that desire that every youngster shares ends up having near-fatal consequences.

Why in this position? : “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is a rare example of a good Chloe Grace Moretz movie. Those who have read my previous annual reviews will know that whilst I like her, she makes a lot of bad films.

She heads up this excellent look at LGBQ+ (no, not T) youth in 90s America and how those from religious backgrounds ended up being forced into doing things that they didn’t want to do, and something that still happens today. This movie could have easily been set at any time in recent decades and the relationship between the characters is believeable.

The reason that this didn’t quite break it into the top ten is because despite the pacing being pretty spot on, it does somewhat drag in places.

12) Dead in One Week (Or Your Money Back)

Full Review
Cast : Aneurin Barnard, Tom Wilkinson, Freya Mavor, Marion Bailey and Christopher Eccleston
Plot : Failing writer William (Barnard) is suicidal, but no matter how hard he tries he can’t kill himself successfully, with oddities of luck intervening. One night he is standing on a bridge to try to finally succeed and he is approached by Leslie (Wilkinson), who wants to watch before eventually simply giving William his card, claiming to be an assassin. He walks off as William jumps, only to land on a passing ship.
William calls Leslie and takes out a contract on himself, with the agreement being that he will be dead in a week. The next day William gets a call from publisher Ellie (Mavor) as she wants to talk more about his newest manuscript. At a business meeting William can’t believe his luck, all before picking up something, and as he ducks Leslie shoots one of those at the meeting, thus proving William’s inability to die via unnatural circumstances.
Despite changing his mind, William can’t convince Leslie to call off the contract and goes into hiding, but one of the reasons Leslie won’t cancel is that he is under pressure to complete the job.
Why in this position? : Unfortunately I can’t call this an original film because it really isn’t. A few years ago I reviewed a film called “Suicide Theory” and the general plot of a man who seemingly can’t die hiring an assassin to help kill him is the same as this, so I am a bit surprised that this was released at the cinema, but I’m going to say that I am glad it did.
At the time of writing this has a rather small rating of 4.8/10 on IMDB, which is very low, and I surprised by that as I genuinely enjoyed the movie. I felt the dialogue was sharp, the acting was decent and the comedy was actually surprisingly enjoyable. Maybe it is because I have grown up with gallows-humour comedy, such as in the TV show “Blackadder”.
There were a few moments here and there where the movie did drag a bit, especially towards the end, but for the most part I found myself enjoying this film far more than most on IMDB seem to have done, and that is why it is this high in the list.

11) Love, Simon

Cast : Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Logan Miller, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel
Plot : Simon (Robinson) has a seemingly normal life but is hiding the he is gay from all of his friends and family. One day an anonymous poster blogs on the school website about being gay as well, but Simon responds, also anonymously. Going by Jacques, Simon corresponds with the mysterious Blue and starts to develop romantic feelings for him. One day he uses the school library computers to respond, he however forgets to log out at the end and socially awkward Martin (Miller) sees what has been typed.
The next day he approaches Simon and tells him that he has seen his emails and will out him if he doesn’t help Abby (Shipp) fall in love with him. This means that Simon has to sabotage the relationships of his friends and manipulate it so that Nick (Lendeborg Jr) diverts his attention to Leah (Langford) rather than Abby. Abby eventually rejects Martin in front of the entire school, causing a petulant reaction.
Why in this position? : “Love, Simon” is well put together coming-of-age story that reminded me a lot of my own personal experiences back at around the same age as the character of Simon. For those that have never read this site before I am transgender and most of what Simon experiences in regards to various experiences, albeit slightly different circumstances, is extremely accurate. Every seemingly small step is a huge one in the context of the situation. Even sending an email can be a big step when you’re not out.
The relationship between the friends feels genuine and the story is well built, Simon also doesn’t feel like being gay is his one and only character trait, which unfortunately does feel the case in a lot of films with LGBT films.
The soundtrack is fantastic and included many songs from one of my favourite bands, Bleachers. I had seen them live several times before watching the movie and therefore found myself lipsyncing along to the songs “Rollercoaster” and “Wild Heart”.
However, the film didn’t really grip me until the final half an hour and that is why it just misses out on the top top. It was very watchable and enjoyable, but up until that point it was just there. It wasn’t awful by any stretch, but not once during the period did I feel like I’d be in a hurry to watch it again, and that is most definitely not a good thing.


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