STOWAWAY – an Alternative Lens review

Starring: Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), Daniel Dae Kim (Raya and the Last Dragon), Shamier Anderson (Wynonna Earp), Toni Collette (Hereditary)

Director: Joe Penna (Arctic)

Writers: Joe Penna & Ryan Morrison (Arctic)

Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes

Release Date: 22nd April (Netflix)

The best science fiction always has a quandary at the centre of its premise. Whether philosophical, scientific, social or any other area of thought, they are narrative experiments that explore what if scenarios that can reflect our reality or hypothesize new ones. Stowaway is very much a classic example of this, exploring the age-old moral question of “can we value one life over others?” The final answer this film presents is solid but underwhelming, resulting in a film held together mainly by its splendid cast and one incredibly tense set piece.

Netflix's STOWAWAY Official Trailer and Poster Revealed

Stowaway sits comfortable between the slow-burn contemplation of films like Silent Running and Ad Astra and the high drama thrills of Gravity and The Martian, though it certainly leans more towards the former. It has a small enough cast and a scenario so basic it could be staged as a play without losing too much of its dramatic heft. It takes about a quarter of the way through its runtime before the central hook takes hold, and from then on, the story tightly focuses on solving the ethical conundrum presented by its titular stowaway. The film does an admirable job of demonstrating the emotional weight of the problems this variable raises, but unfortunately the drama remains pretty subdued and unexciting for the most part. The conflict, whilst perhaps more genuine, is tepid by cinematic standards and leaves much of the second act feeling dry.

Thankfully, the movie finally hits its peak in the third act with an incredibly thrilling sequence as two of our astronauts are forced to climb across the delicate hull of their ship. There’s a palpable intensity and fear present here that just isn’t present anywhere else in the film and, whilst certainly not on the same scale as Alfonso Cuaron’s aforementioned space thriller, manages to invoke a similar sense of existential dread. The final payoff of the premise is sadly too expected, answering its question in a way that makes much of the preceding story feel like filler, but it at least manages to get in a few moments of excitement before it comes to its perfunctory conclusion.

Stowaway (2021) - IMDb
Anna Kendrick as Zoe Levenson in STOWAWAY (2021, d. Joe Penna)

Any good bottle story relies on the dynamics of the trapped characters and, whilst Stowaway definitely has a stellar cast, the people they are tasked with playing are far less so. The biggest flaw in this regard is in how it treats its titular character Michael (Shamier Anderson). Another movie might have made him the central character, but too often he’s treated more like a prop than a human being, which works counteractively to the emotional core of the story. It certainly doesn’t help that Anderson, whilst delivering a solid performance with what little material he has, pales in comparison to the rest of the cast. Anna Kendrick is instead the film’s nominal lead as optimistic doctor Zoe, and her buoyant but grounded performance easily makes her the most relatable of the bunch, but her arc still feels somewhat underdeveloped.

Toni Collette is as brilliant as ever as ship captain Marina but she too is a little lacking in depth, mainly tasked with providing exposition and being frustrated by the off-screen ground team. The most dynamic and interesting performance easily comes from Daniel Dae Kim as biologist David, who brings a much-needed intensity to the most tepid proceedings. A weaker film would have easily turned him into an antagonist, but Kim grounds his character with motivations and backstory that justify his more questionable behaviour. He steals every scene he’s in, and is yet another example of how underrated Kim is as an actor.

Stowaway - movie: where to watch streaming online
Daniel Dae Kim as David Kim in STOWAWAY (2021, d. Joe Penna)

Whilst no formal budget has been made public, Stowaway is certainly working with a lot less money than most of its contemporaries, but it makes good use of what it has. The small and claustrophobic nature of its spacecraft setting is simple but well-realised, with a lot of long takes that float across the whole set emphasising how cramped it really is. The special effects are refreshingly minimal but are more than effective, with the aforesaid third-act set piece being the main venue where they take centre stage, whilst the score by Hauschka isn’t particularly standout but does effectively evoke the film’s solemn yet hopeful mood.

Stowaway is the definition of a serviceable film: engaging and competently-made enough to watch, but lacking anything that really makes it stand out. It’s far from a waste of time and it has moments where it truly comes to life, but it’s hard to recommend when there are so many similar but better films out there that are just as easy to watch. To put it simply: if this movie was trapped on a spaceship with Gravity, The Martian and Ad Astra, and I had to sacrifice one to save the others, I would shoot Stowaway out of the airlock in a heartbeat. I’d feel pretty sad and guilty about it, but it would be the only obvious choice.

FINAL VERDICT: 6/10

MY TOP 25 FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2019

Wow. 2019 was quite an interesting year for film. A lot of the discussion this year was how Hollywood is starting to feel more homogenous than ever, as blockbusters continue to eat up more space in cinemas and smaller films are having to run to streaming services for support. When filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh and even Michael Bay need to rely on Netflix to get their films made, there’s something clearly amiss in the traditional studio system.

With that said, there were great films from all corners of the medium this year, and now is finally the time for me to run down all of my favourites. There were quite a load of hard cuts to make here, but I’m happy to say every single film on this list is a gem and more than worth seeing. Honestly, some of these will actively make your life better. But hey…that’s just my opinion.

Honourable Mentions

Honey Boy

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Weathering with You

Late Night

The Nightingale


  1. High Life

This is a film that is both a homage to a far-gone generation of contemplative science fiction and a turbulent deconstruction of the genre itself. Claire Denis shows an incredible reverence to classics like Solaris and Silent Running whilst also injecting her film with an all-too-human darkness and penchant for all things carnal. Yet amongst all the apocalyptic grime and lust, there is a glimmer of optimism within this film’s black heart. It’s certainly not an experience for everyone, but there’s a beauty in its depiction of depravity.

  1. Judy

Judy Garland is such a screen legend that she practically feels fictional, but this brutally honest portrait of her swansong years brings the starlet back down to reality. Renée Zellweger delivers her finest performance in years, perfectly capturing the eccentricity, indomitable spirit and concealed sadness of the iconic actress and singer. Judy works not only as a spotlight on a celebrity’s twilight but also as a sorry reminder of how Hollywood’s problems with misogyny and depersonalization have a longstanding history.

  1. The Lighthouse

Robert Eggers returns once again with his unique brand of arthouse period piece horror with this tale of isolation and paranoia. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe excel in this bleak and oozing atmosphere, unearthing performances rife with pathos and insanity, with Dafoe’s grizzly maritime drawl in particular exuding with terror. The black-and-white cinematography and 1.19:1 aspect ratio combine to create a visual experience that is haunting and claustrophobic, and its eerie imagery is pure unfiltered nightmare fuel. Watch at your own peril, but watch anyway.

  1. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

The tear-jerking documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbour? may ultimately be the more defining tribute to the quiet genius of Fred Rogers, but Marielle Heller’s cinematic take on the children’s television host is remarkable in its own right. Tom Hanks is perfectly cast as Rogers, expertly embodying his reserved but kind demeanour whilst giving him a hidden dimension of sadness. His scenes with Matthew Rhys as the sceptical journalist are some of the most emotionally powerful scenes of film this year, and anyone struggling with any kind of mental anguish or trauma needs to see this. It is cinema therapy at its finest, and a worthy companion piece to the already excellent documentary.

  1. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Whilst perhaps the weakest entry in the John Wick saga on a story level, Parabellum delivers some of the finest action in the series yet. Every fight is a spectacle to behold, constantly upping the ante with new toys and ideas, putting to shame every dime-a-dozen action movie that even attempts to copy its style. This is a film made of pure fun, and its pretentions for greater meaning feel tongue-in-cheek in exactly the right way. As long as they can keep up the quality, John Wick can return as many times as he pleases. [read the full review here]

  1. Booksmart

Teen comedies have come in all sorts of flavours over the years, but a great female-driven example sadly only seems to come once in a generation. For this generation, the answer is easily Booksmart. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is an immediate cult classic that plays with the well-established tropes but gives them a progressive makeover that is both hilarious and poignant. As much a tale of unconditional friendship and a contemplation on our adolescent regret as it is a series of sex and drug jokes, this is a film that feels like a time capsule of Generation Z and yet also a timeless tale of teenage liberty that’ll stand the test of ages. [read the full review here]

  1. Captain Marvel

It took Marvel Studios long enough, but they finally gave us a female-led entry to the MCU and it paid off in dividends. Whilst in many facets yet another superhero origin story, Captain Marvel defies expectations and fashions its story to be about more than just sci-fi heroics. Flavouring its narrative with commentary on female self-empowerment, wartime refugees and questioning your allegiances, there is a powerful but playful undercurrent to what is easily Marvel’s most wish-fulfilling fantasy since the first Captain America. Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers is the kind of hero we need more of right now, and hopefully she can lead the MCU into a bright but daunting future. [read the full review here]

  1. Long Shot

It may seem a bit quaint and overly idealistic now given how much US politics has continued to degrade since its release, but Long Shot is still a hilarious and thought-provoking marriage of romantic comedy and political satire. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron may seem like an odd pairing on paper, but on the screen their chemistry illuminates every moment, and the fantastic supporting cast including O’Shea Jackson Jr., Bob Odenkirk and an unrecognisable Andy Serkis only sweeten the deal. If the current world climate has got you feeling down, this is the perfect antidote to pessimism. [read the full review here]

  1. Shazam!

In a world where superhero movies constantly feel like they have to be either The Avengers or The Dark Knight, it’s great to see one that embraces the childhood fantasy so unabashedly. Shazam! is a delightful and consistently hilarious throwback to 90s and early 2000s comic book movies in the best way, bolstering the expected superhero fare with self-deprecating humour, a lot of heart and even a little horror. It’s just a romp from start to finish, and yet another encouraging sign that DC is on a steady road to recovery. [read the full review here]

  1. Spider-Man: Far From Home

Into the Spider-Verse may have shown it up before it even got to the table, but Far From Home is still easily the best live-action Spidey flick since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. It serves as not only a strong epilogue to Endgame but also sets Peter Parker on a path that helps separate him from past interpretations whilst still being quintessentially Spider-Man. However, it’s Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio that steals the show, delivering a deliciously smarmy performance and the best Spidey villain since Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. Hopefully, with now one last movie bolted onto the Disney/Sony deal, Marvel Studios can send out their time with this character with an appropriate bang until they can reclaim custody for good. [read the full review here]

  1. Promare

This is easily the most esoteric film to make the list, but there is simply no more unique a film from 2019 than Promare. A hyper-saturated, frenetically paced and action-packed anime bonanza of spectacle turned up to eleven, it backs up its brazen style with a surprisingly complex and timely exploration of prejudice and revolution. Like Les Misérables for the Antifa generation, this is a bewildering yet gorgeous example of embracing flair over form in the best way and standing out in a sea of both western and eastern animation. What else would you expect from the creators of Kill la Kill?

  1. Marriage Story

Divorce is hardly a new subject for film to explore, but Noah Baumbach’s raw and personal rendering of it is deeply effective and relatable even to those who haven’t been through the process. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson both give stellar performances whilst keeping their drama balanced and heartbreakingly sympathetic. With a fantastic supporting turn from Laura Darn and a restrained but heartbreaking score from Randy Newman, Marriage Story is a worthy addition to the lexicon of stories about failed love.

  1. Uncut Gems

Just whenever it becomes easy to write the guy off as a lazy hack, Adam Sandler jumps back in the ring and proves himself a fantastic actor. Watching Uncut Gems is like having a two-hour anxiety attack, keeping you on the edge of your seat as you witness one man’s desperate and pathetic struggle with his unrestrained vices. Not only is Sandler absolutely mesmerising, but the writing and directing from Josh & Bennie Safdie is phenomenal across the board; not to mention the cinematography, score and great supporting work from Julia Fox and Idina Menzel. The fact this was completely snubbed by the Academy this year, especially Sandler, is a damning indictment of the entire awards season culture.

  1. Dolemite Is My Name

Speaking of snubs, Eddie Murphy also delivered an amazing comeback performance this year to little recognition, but Dolemite Is My Name is more than worth seeking out. Films about filmmaking are always a fascinating venture, but this biopic of the infamous Rudy Ray Moore is about something much larger than a cult icon. It is a testament to the pursuit of glory not just for fame and riches, but to give your community a voice and prove wrong those who thought you couldn’t. Anyone who wants to be a creative, especially from a marginalised background, should see this film as spiritual guidance to pursue your dreams on your own terms and make your art for those you love.

  1. Hustlers

There were certainly better films made in 2019, but no movie summed up the feel of the year than Hustlers; ironic, considering the film mainly takes place in the late 2000s. Lorene Scafaria writes and directs with confidence this tale of strippers taking back control after the 2008 financial crisis, criticising the failed capitalism that created the current culture whilst also basking in its opulence. The entire cast is a fantastic girl gang of talent, but Jennifer Lopez is absolutely the film’s MVP and once again proves she can be a formidable actress in the right role. In a year already containing both The Irishman and Joker, Hustlers ended up being the better Scorsese throwback than even Scorsese himself. [read the full review here]

  1. Ad Astra

When we get raw, grounded traditional science fiction, it’s usually a low budget affair in the vein of Moon or the aforementioned High Life, and attempts to make blockbuster-sized versions usually ends up diluting and ruining the premise (anyone remember Passengers?). Ad Astra is the rare example that puts its budget to good use, delivering a high concept spectacle with grand production design and visual effects whilst staying focused on the human story at its centre. It’s a film about trauma and isolation that uses its sci-fi trappings to amplify its themes rather than distract from them, crafting a sorrowful but necessary tale of learning to boldly move forward rather than letting the past define you. [read the full review here]

  1. Le Mans ’66 (Ford v Ferrari)

The ultimate dad movie of the decade, Le Mans ’66 is far more than just a film about cool fast cars going vroom vroom. It is a story about the best kind of teamwork, putting forward the best people for the job regardless of personalities and conflicts to achieve an ultimate goal. Christian Bale gives another landmark performance as the abrasive but unmatched Ken Miles, and combined with Matt Damon as the more restrained Carroll Shelby they make for a great two-hander. James Mangold directs the film with passion and fury, delivering some of the best racing sequences in recent cinema history in the process. Put this in a double bill with Ron Howard’s Rush, and you’ve got a great night of high octane driving bromance. [read the full review here]

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  1. Little Women

Greta Gerwig has proven she’s far more than just the millennial dreamer girl by making the defining adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s seminal story of progressive womanhood. Respecting the source material whilst giving it a cheeky revisionist twist, this is a gorgeous and touching drama that feels as young as the day the novel was first published, and will likely influence generations of young girls to come. The entire cast is brilliant from top to bottom, but Saorise Ronan and Florence Pugh shine brightest of all, whilst Gerwig herself has practically guaranteed herself tenure amongst the current crop of filmmaking greats.

  1. Wild Rose

The best movie of 2019 that no one saw, Wild Rose is the perfect film for the hopeless dreamer in us all. It was a banner year for rising star Jessie Buckley with standout turns in Chernobyl and Judy, but this was the proof in the pudding she is a leading lady to be taken seriously. Backed up by an equally stellar turn from Julie Walters, this tale of a Glaswegian single mother and ex-con trying to make it as a country singer is one of the best British indies in a long time, and a beautiful ode to pursuing happiness and dreams without drowning yourself in fantasy. [read the full review here]

  1. Avengers: Endgame

What an end to over a decade of storytelling! The Marvel Cinematic Universe experiment may now be commonplace in the blockbuster landscape, but only they know how to pull it off like this, and Endgame is a testament to their power and influence. A true epic not seen since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, it brings a satisfying closure to a sprawling saga whilst leaving the door wide open for more, delivering not only on the fan service but also on raw emotion and heart. This may be exactly the type of film that is homogenising western cinema into even more of a pure blockbuster landscape, but that is a problem with the industry more than Avengers: Endgame itself. Judged as the type of film it is trying to be, it is the chef’s kiss of superhero movies. [read the full review here]

  1. Toy Story 4

The fact that everyone thought a fourth Toy Story film was a bad idea and yet it still turned out amazing is proof that Pixar can accomplish anything when they put their minds to it. It far from negates the conclusiveness of the third film, instead acting as more of a character-driven epilogue to Woody’s decade-long philosophical quest to define his purpose as a toy, and as that it is a joyful yet sob-worthy triumph. It’s everything you could want from a Toy Story movie and more. If Toy Story 3 was like saying goodbye to your childhood friends, Toy Story 4 is having one of those friends run back, give you a kiss on the lips, tell you they’ve always and will always love you, then run away saying goodbye again. [read the full review here]

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  1. Jojo Rabbit

Writing these words in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump being acquitted, it only becomes clearer that we need films like Jojo Rabbit now more than ever. A hilarious and yet soul-crushingly honest portrait of innocence corrupted by fear-mongering and hatred, it handles its weighty subject matter with knowing heft whilst also thoroughly dismantling the bravado and rhetoric of the Nazi Party. Though writer/director/co-star Taika Waititi’s fingerprints are clearly all over every aspect of the film, and great supporting turns from Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell bolster its excellence, this is a film that belongs to Roman Griffith Davis and Thomasin McKenzie. Not only do they both give terrific performances, they perfectly symbolize what the film is truly about: how the horrific words and actions of our leaders trickles down and impacts the lives of the most innocent. [read the full review here]

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  1. 1917

Movies about war have been around since the dawn of the medium, and after over a hundred years of cinema it’s hard to come up with new ways to display and convey the magnitude of such events. 1917 does so by utilising the one-take gimmick to its utmost extreme, presenting a story of one soldier’s journey to save lives in the midst of one of the most casualty-burdened wars in history. Director Sam Mendes, cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer Thomas Newman are all equally at the top of their game here, each demonstrating why they are all amongst the best of their respective crafts, all to tell one of the oldest stories in the book in a completely refreshing way. Of all the movies on this list, this is the one that most demands being seen in a cinema as intended.

Image result for 1917 2019

  1. Knives Out

Rian Johnson took the toxic backlash he received from alt-right trolls after Star Wars: The Last Jedi and used it to make one of the best movies of the year. Knives Out is a whodunit caper done to perfection, self-aware of every trope in the book and twisting them all in quirky yet perfect ways. The cast is immense and all spectacular, delivering every piece of immensely quotable dialogue with the firmest of tongues in their cheeks, and the socio-political commentary is witty and just on-the-nose enough to be spiteful in all the right ways. Johnson says there may be more mysteries for Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc to solve in the future, and we can only hope they are all as captivating as Knives Out. [read the full review here]

  1. Parasite

No movie in 2019 felt more cathartic, more intelligent, more shocking, or more awe-inspiringly perfect than Bong Joon Ho’s instant classic Parasite. An outstanding critique of class that takes shots at both ends of the spectrum, it paints an exaggerated but sincere picture of what happens when the extremes of privilege meet and how even those least fortunate can succumb to the spoils of capitalism. Every other film on this list has something worth nitpicking, but Parasite is about as close to cinema perfection as you can get. In an age where spectacle and grandeur is the name of the game, this is relieving evidence that small-to-mid budget films still have a place and so much to say. There is room in cinema for all shapes and sizes of films, but the industry needs to keep a place for films like Parasite to exist. So go see it. Now. I assure you, you won’t regret it.

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MY TOP 25 MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS OF 2020

And so we now not only enter a new year, but a new decade of cinema. Only time will tell if these new 20s will be as roaring as the last, especially considering the world is burning outside, but there’s still plenty to look forward to at movie theatres! That being said, the start of a decade often doesn’t take shape until a few years in, so I doubt 2020 is going to completely alter the cinematic landscape within these next twelve months. It’s still a year packed with sequels, reboots and pre-existing intellectual properties, but I’m happy to have also found a strong handful of total originals to scatter about this list. Though the world may not change as soon as we hit 2020, this is the year to plant those seeds, and hopefully within a few years we’ll have a better idea of what this decade means for the industry. Otherwise, I think we’re still very much on track for the Disney conglomeration of media…

Once again, to avoid the “what about…” comments pre-emptively, I will explain my rules for qualifying:

  1. This list is based on what is scheduled to come out in 2020 as of writing. Some of these may get delayed to 2021 and beyond for a variety of reasons, but as of now they are due for release next year. I’ve included many a film on one of these lists that have been delayed as such (one of my entries this year was on my list two years ago…). I am no Nostradamus and cannot help it if investors decide a film is better placed in another quarter or needs extensive reshoots.
  2. I’m only counting films that have a confirmed 2020 release (in the US at least). There are plenty of films, generally smaller ones that may still be seeking distribution or sussing out marketing, which are in various states of production with an aimed 2020 release. However, if it doesn’t have a specified date on the calendar, it’s not getting counted.
  3. Films that will be released here in the UK in 2020 but were released in the US or elsewhere in 2019 don’t count. Don’t expect to see films like Jojo Rabbit, The Lighthouse or Bombshell on this list. I exclude them because I want to talk about totally unreleased films without any preconception of critical success, not just gush excitedly about films I’ve heard are good from across the pond and are simply awaiting release on our shores.
  4. This is not a prediction of what I think will be the best films of 2020. There’s always a film on this list that ends up utterly disappointing, and the best movies often end up being ones I overlooked or haven’t even heard of yet. These are merely the movies I am most excited and/or interested to see, and their quality will be judged when I have actually seen them.

  1. A Quiet Place: Part II

Release Date: 20th March (US, UK)

A Quiet Place was one of the bigger surprises of 2018, showing that John Krasinski has directorial potential and finding a deep emotional core about family and survival inside what is otherwise a fairly bog-standard post-apocalyptic sci-fi story. Whilst the first film did enough to set up a compelling sequel, where exactly it has to go is still very much up in the air. At the very least, with her barefoot-and-pregnant phase in the first film now over, hopefully this time around Emily Blunt will get her chance to be a full-on badass. If we’re going to have to wait even longer for that long-promised Edge of Tomorrow sequel, I need my badass Blunt fix wherever I can get it.

  1. The New Mutants

Release Date: 3rd April (US), 8th April (UK)

So yeah…this was on my list two years ago. It was supposed to come out in April 2018…then got pushed to February 2019…then August 2019…and now April 2020…hopefully. There is still doubt about whether it’ll get a release at all. Reshoots were supposed to be done in the meantime, but there’s no word that’s actually happened. This movie has been sitting on a shelf so long, the franchise it was meant to be a spin-off from is over. And yet still…that only makes me want to see it more. Whether it turns out to be a mangled mess or a mistreated gem, the behind-the-scenes calamity of getting this movie into cinemas is all the hype I need. Plus, this trailer that is now over two years old still looks pretty cool.

  1. Free Guy

Release Date: 1st July (UK), 3rd July (US)

Movies based on video games tend not to be good. Movies about video games, however, have a slightly better track record, and the premise of Free Guy is so simple but ripe for opportunity that it’s surprising no one has attempted it before. Essentially a riff on Stranger Than Fiction but with video games instead of novels, the prospect of Ryan Reynolds as a bumbling NPC becoming self-aware of his place in a Grand Theft Auto-style world has comedic potential written all over it, and the trailer shows promise with its vibrant and quirky sense of humour. Director Shawn Levy can be pretty hit-and-miss, and there’s every chance this could end up a disaster like Pixels, but the premise and trailer are enough to have me cautiously optimistic.

  1. The Invisible Man

Release Date: 28th February (US, UK)

It looks like Universal is making attempt #3 at bringing their Monsters franchise back for the modern era, and this time they’ve taken the safer but far more interesting avenue: handing the reigns to over to the low-budget maestros at Blumhouse. With Saw and Insidious co-creator Leigh Whannell now at the helm, this new take on The Invisible Man just from the trailer delivers exactly what the likes of The Mummy and Dracula Untold were missing: actual horror and suspense. Shifting the perspective of the story and turning it into a psychologically twisted examination of abusive relationships and gaslighting with a supernatural twist is a bold move, and exactly the right way to modernise these classic horror stories for a new age. Given the limited scope and budget of the film, it’s an investment that is likely to pay off for Universal no matter its ultimate quality, but here’s hoping it delivers.

  1. Fast & Furious 9

Release Date: 22nd May (US, UK)

After a brief detour with Hobbs & Shaw, the mainline series is back on track and the roads are wide open with possibilities. Which characters are they going to bring back from the dead? What crazy new stunt are they going to attempt with cars? And can we please just send these characters to space already? With series veteran Justin Lin back in the director’s chair for the first time since the sixth instalment, here’s hoping for a rollocking and mad adventure that brings a little of that magic that made peak Fast & Furious so special. Plus, John Cena is in this one, and here’s hoping he does something incredibly ridiculous like…stop a car with his teeth or something. I don’t know. These movies are kinda crazy and hard to read.

  1. West Side Story

Release Date: 18th December (US, UK)

Whilst it of course has its origins on the stage (and Shakespeare before that), West Side Story is so iconic in its 1961 film form that the idea of a remake feels almost disrespectful. Then again, when your name is Steven Spielberg, pretty much anything is a possibility. Robert Wise’s direction of the original has been so influential to many directors over the years (even Michael Bay credits Wise and his version as one of his main inspirations), so it’s simply going to be fascinating to see how Spielberg apply his distinct aesthetic to the classic story. Outside of the opening of Temple of Doom, he’s never even directed a musical before, and that in and of itself is compelling enough to have me intrigued. Thankfully, the filmmakers have learnt from time and have cast the film with a more racially-appropriate cast, and even original star Rita Moreno returns in a different role! With that said, it’s going to be interesting having two big latinx-focused musicals on our screens in the same year…

  1. In The Heights

Release Date: 26th June (US, UK)

The likelihood of a film version of Hamilton is high…just not for at least another five years. However, the long-gestating adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s other hip-hop musical is finally making it to the screen this summer. With a fantastic cast brimming with latinx and black talent, and both Miranda and co-writer Quiara Alegría Hudes heavily involved in the production, this musical tale centred around a bodega in Washington Heights will hopefully reach an audience far beyond the Broadway stage. Director Jon M. Chu may have a sporadic track record, but his history with the Step Up franchise and Crazy Rich Asians certainly demonstrates he knows how to make lavish crowd-pleasing fare with an eye for diversity. Speaking of Crazy Rich Asians

  1. Raya and the Last Dragon

Release Date: 25th November (US), 27th November (UK)

…our next entry is from that film’s co-writer Adele Lim, who recently turned down the sequel after discovering she was being paid less than her white male co-writer. So, jumping ship to instead write the next feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios seems like a solid move. The studio’s third film steeped in Asian culture after Mulan and Big Hero 6, there’s not too much info yet on Raya and the Last Dragon, but based purely on the image below I’m excited for the possibilities. Also, Awkwafina is in it, and Awkwafina makes everything better.

  1. Top Gun: Maverick

Release Date: 26th June (US), 17th July (UK)

I shouldn’t be excited about a sequel to Top Gun for a variety of reasons. It’s been too long. Joseph Kosinski makes very pretty but ultimately empty and derivative films. Tom Cruise in anything other than Mission: Impossible is often dicey. This is an idea that really should have been put aside after Tony Scott’s untimely passing and been left at that. With that said…damn, the footage released so far is impressive and makes the whole thing seem relevant again. The only way this could be any better is if they somehow embraced all the homoerotic subtext of the first film, but I sincerely doubt that will happen. Otherwise, looks pretty damn cool. Will probably look great in IMAX too.

  1. Coming 2 America

Release Date: 18th December (US, UK)

So Eddie Murphy finally made his first great movie in over a decade with Dolemite Is My Name, and now he’s reteaming with that film’s director Craig Brewer to make the long-awaited sequel to one of his most iconic films. Coming to America still holds up as one of the great comedies of the 1980s, and right now honestly feels like a more ideal time than any to bring Prince Akeem back to the streets of New York. With a good chunk of the core cast returning along with new additions like Wesley Snipes, Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan, Coming 2 America has plenty of potential. Let’s just hope the comedy sequel curse steers clear of this one…

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  1. Bill & Ted Face the Music

Release Date: 21st August (US, UK)

Speaking of sequels to 80s movies, this one has been a long time coming, and it seems the Keanussance has finally worked enough magic to bring back the Wild Stallions. The idea alone of seeing Bill and Ted now middle-aged and dealing with fatherhood is a funny enough concept alone, and a new status quo that could bring some needed emotion to what is likely to be another wacky time-and-reality jumping adventure. Also, William Sadler is back as Death, and that alone bumps this way up the list.

  1. Onward

Release Date: 6th March (US, UK)

Pixar has two films out in 2020, with their second feature Soul releasing in the summer, but this fantasy adventure from Monsters University helmer Dan Scanlon looks the more promising of the two so far. Fusing fantasy tropes with a modern setting isn’t the most original of ideas (hell, we saw Bright do that pretty poorly recently), but from the footage so far it looks like an imaginative concept bolstered by a story of two brothers who want to see their dad one last time that’ll hopefully deliver plenty of laughs and heart.

  1. Godzilla vs. Kong

Release Date: 20th November (US, UK)

So whilst Godzilla: King of the Monsters might not have been to everyone’s tastes (personally, I thought it was a lot of goofy fun), the Monsterverse must soldier on to what it’s all been building to: the long awaited rematch between King Kong and Godzilla. Director Adam Wingard has a spotty history from highs like You’re Next and The Guest to lows like Blair Witch and Death Note, but there’s no denying he’s a visually compelling and talented director, and his eye feels perfectly at home with the other filmmakers who’ve been crafting this world of monsters. There are all sorts of ways this film could go, but as long as it delivers on the promised action with gusto, it’s going to be difficult to make this concept fall apart without at least a little fun on the way.

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  1. The King’s Man

Release Date: 18th September (US, UK)

Kingsman: The Golden Circle ended up being a bit of a disappointment but, instead of heading straight into a third instalment, Matthew Vaughn and co are stepping back in time for a sec to detail the origins of the titular espionage organisation. The trailers so far show more of the whipsmart action and charming wit the series has made itself known for, but hopefully this isn’t just yet another new coat of paint on a series that so far has only had one story to tell. If this one can pull something new out of its bag of tricks and prove Kingsman is more than just a one-trick pony, hopefully that will make a return to the story of Eggsy a little more justifiable.

  1. The Lovebirds

Release Date: 3rd April (US), 24th April (UK)

Director Michael Showalter and actor Kumail Nanjiani struck gold in 2017 with their touching rom-com The Big Sick, and now for their second feature they are attempting an odd combo: romantic comedy and murder mystery. With Nanjiani and Insecure star Issa Rae in the leads as a couple on the verge of break-up whilst being accused of murder, this mixture of emotions could easily end up muddled, but in these capable hands I have a strong amount of trust. Maybe it doesn’t sound like the heartbreaking awards contender The Big Sick was, but it at least has the potential to be a barrel of laughs.

  1. Run

Release Date: 24th January (US), N/A (UK)

My spidey sense is telling me that, given this film is supposedly a month away from its US release but has had no promotional materials released other than a few set photos, this film may be in danger of a major delay. Regardless of when it releases, this looks like a sleeper release to watch. This is director Aneesh Chaganty’s sophomore after his fantastic 2018 debut Searching, and it’s going to be interesting to see what he can do with a more traditional feature rather than a screenwatch film. The base concept of a daughter suspecting her mother of something dark has prime psychological thriller material written all over it, and featuring a disabled protagonist is certainly a plus for both diversity and suspense. Wish I had more to say, but certainly keep an eye out for this one.

  1. Black Widow

Release Date: 1st May (US, UK)

After nearly a decade of waiting, Black Widow is finally getting her own solo movie, and what an interesting beast it looks to be. An espionage thriller in the vein of Winter Soldier but turned up a notch, the exact purpose of this midquel to Civil War and Infinity War still remains a mystery, but hopefully this is more than just a promise to Scarlett Johansson being ticked off a checklist and instead dives deeper into the lore of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and retroactively gives Natasha Romanoff a proper shot at depth and redemption. On the plus side, if all the business with Johansson proves tiring, Florence Pugh and David Harbour look more than entertaining enough to keep this one afloat.

  1. Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Release Date: 10th July (US, UK)

The response to 2016’s Ghostbusters was incredibly disappointing, with a flawed but decent and promising film being shunned to the sidelines simply for not being exactly what the fanboys wanted. Well, it seems Sony and Jason Reitman have taken notice and are delivering what they asked for…just not in quite the way they expected. Film fans should already know that Jason Reitman is about as a distant a filmmaker from his father and original Ghostbusters director Ivan as you can get, and based on the trailer Afterlife is arguably even more of a departure for the series than Paul Feig’s entry. This could easily just end up being Ghostbusters: The Force Awakens, but if Reitman can find something interesting and poignant to say about the series whilst still delivering the goods, I’m more than excited to hear.

  1. Tenet

Release Date: 17th July (US, UK)

Any new Christopher Nolan is always going to be an event, but Tenet easily looks like his most exciting new idea since Inception. As usual, the exact details of the film’s premise is being kept tight under wraps, but the trailer certainly suggests time manipulation is the central thrust of the film’s narrative. The film’s cast of John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki is also intriguing, but of course Michael Caine is still on hand in some form. Whatever the final film turns out to be about, it is all but guaranteed to be a visual spectacular.

  1. No Time to Die

Release Date: 2nd April (UK), 10th April (US)

Daniel Craig has been our James Bond for fourteen years now, and with this fifth and (most likely) final outing as 007 we find ourselves in interesting territory. With Cary Fukunaga at the helm (the first non-British director in franchise history) and a cast full of returning favourites and interesting new faces, No Time to Die looks to wrap up the Craig era in spectacular fashion. The trailer perhaps hints a little too much that it hasn’t learnt the big lesson from Spectre (i.e. don’t treat James Bond like a Marvel movie and pretend these films have an overarching planned narrative), but the action and style absolutely looks on display.

  1. Last Night in Soho

Release Date: 18th September (UK), 25th September (US)

As much as Edgar Wright likes to play around with genre, he has equally found himself stuck in the same self-deprecating cycle since the beginning of his career. Well, with Last Night in Soho, it looks like he’s finally trying something completely out of his wheelhouse. With a premise that reads like Midnight in Paris crossed with Don’t Look Know and a cast including Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomasin McKenzie and Matt Smith, this psychological horror fantasy looks to be an ideal step forward into a new era for Wright, and hopefully he can find the right balance between expressing his reverence for cinema and leaving his own mark too.

  1. Eternals

Release Date: 6th November (US, UK)

Whilst Marvel’s first entry this year seems to be playing it relatively safe, Eternals promises to be something a little more cosmic and out-of-this-world. Whilst the property is extremely obscure and not particularly popular, its century-hopping narrative rife with gonzo Jack Kirby imagination certainly hints this could be something of a change of pace. With Marvel’s most diverse and interesting cast to date and a filmmaker as idiosyncratic as Chloe Zhao at the helm, hopefully Eternals can officially kick of Phase Four with some style.

  1. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Release Date: 7th February (US, UK)

I can’t believe I’m more excited for DC’s slate of films this year than Marvel’s, but here’s the simple case: Marvel is continuing to simply do what it’s proven good at, whilst DC has been slowly stepping out of its shell and is now promising vastly different and vibrant superhero films that looks and sound totally unique. Case in point: a manic, pop-punk extravaganza starring some of the greatest ladies in Gotham City drenched in neon and explosions. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was the main saving grace of Suicide Squad, and now without the restraints of Jared Leto and the Snyder era holding her back it’s going to be exciting to see what she can do with this much-beloved character.

  1. Dune

Release Date: 20th November (UK), 18th December (US)

Dune is a property that is ripe for adaptation and yet is so difficult to distil into something palatable. Alejandro Jodorowsky famously failed in his attempts to adapt Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi classic to the screen, and the 1984 David Lynch version was rife with issues caused by getting lost in translation. Now, Denis Villeneuve is taking his shot with this first part in a promised duology adapting the original novel, and I couldn’t think of a better filmmaker to finally tackle this immense task. With films like Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 under his belt, Villeneuve’s eye and sensibilities are perfect for the rich and pedantic world of Dune, and anyone else just needs to look at the cast list for the film to realise the immensity of this production. Whether this ends up a triumph or a disaster, this is absolutely one to watch.

  1. Wonder Woman 1984

Release Date: 5th June (US, UK)

If you haven’t already noticed, women are directing all four major superhero blockbusters this year. Whilst that is far from meaning sexism in the industry is over, it is a sign that the tides are shifting and women’s voices are being more heard in mainstream entertainment, and the first Wonder Woman film was a huge game changer that proved so many assumptions about women in blockbusters wrong. With Patty Jenkins once again at the helm, Wonder Woman 1984 looks like it has everything that made the first film a near-masterpiece of the genre and, now finally free of the Snyder aesthetic, can be as joyously bright and wild as it wants. How is Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor back? What is Kristen Wiig as Cheetah going to look like? How can Pedro Pascal still be this attractive whilst playing a Donald Trump stand-in? All of these questions and more have me utterly chomping at the bit to see Wonder Woman 1984, and here’s hoping it’s the film that truly signals the rebirth of the DC Extended Universe.

MY TOP 25 FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2018

So after catching up on all the awards season favourites and others I missed over the last 12 months, my ultimate summation of 2018 in cinema overall is that it was…a mixed bag. I mean, there were some absolute gems this year, but filling out this list with worthy candidates was a lot harder than it has been in previous years. I wouldn’t say it was a bad year for film though. I just don’t want to linger on negativity anymore, which is a big reason I haven’t done a “worst of” list this year and probably never will again. Moving forward as a critic, I want to put celebrating cinema first and foremost, but by no means does that mean I’m going to stop writing negative reviews or turn my brain off. It just means less disparaging humour and more practical critique.

With that said, I do genuinely love every film on this list, even though I could nitpick plenty of them if I was so inclined. In a year that was otherwise filled with uncertainty and impending crisis, we need to focus the positives we do have, and in some ways that makes the great movies we did get this year even sweeter. So enough with the procrastinating. On with the list!

Honourable Mentions

Love, Simon

Annihilation

A Quiet Place

Upgrade

Ant-Man and the Wasp


  1. Boy Erased

We had two dramas about conversion therapy this year, and whilst The Miseducation of Cameron Post was a solid effort Boy Erased goes just that little bit further into driving home how dehumanising a practice it is. Joel Edgerton continues to he’s just as talented a writer/director as he is an actor, if not more so, with this tale of a young man attempting to find himself through this abusive process. Lucas Hedges’ lead performance is yet another stellar role in a still-young career, whilst Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Edgerton himself deliver some of their best work in recent years. It is a harrowing but necessary reflection of the bigotry still present in our society, and one I hope can open up a few hearts to acceptance.

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  1. The Night Comes For Us

It seems ever more unlikely that we are ever going to see a third Raid movie, but this spiritual successor featuring two of its stars is a more than worthy substitute. The Night Comes For Us is a straightforward but compelling crime thriller that leaps quickly into the action and rarely lets up from there. Every fight sequence in this film would be the landmark scene in any western action film, but all are executed with top-notch choreography and slick cinematography and editing. Top it all off with a manic leading man turn by Joe Taslim and fun supporting turns from the likes of Iko Uwais, Zack Lee and Julie Estelle, and this is one lovers of dark, bloody action extravaganzas should not miss out on.

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  1. If Beale Street Could Talk

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins once again returns to exploring the African-American experience through this emotionally devastating adaptation of the James Baldwin novel. An ever-relevant look at racial bias in the justice system, If Beale Street Could Talk somehow manages to find beauty and heart in the unjust tragedy of two lovers kept apart by prejudice. Bolstered by phenomenal performances and Nicholas Britell’s gorgeous score, this is yet another notch in Jenkins’ already well-adorned belt.

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  1. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Did Solo need to exist? No, but you could say the same about a lot of good movies. Is Solo on the same level as The Last Jedi? No, but it’s not trying to be. The real important question is thus: is Solo an entertaining blockbuster ride with memorable characters, fantastic action set pieces and some surprising thematic and universe-building depth on its own merits? Absolutely! Star Wars fatigue was definitely the culprit in why many wrote off Solo, but the abundance of other great movies in close proximity shouldn’t mean this less-good movie is not good; if that were true, the MCU would have ended years ago. If you skipped out on Solo at release, give it a fair shake and I think you’ll find plenty to enjoy. Hey, you need something to tide you over until Episode IX in December, right? [read full review here]

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  1. Leave No Trace

Winter’s Bone director Debra Granik returns to once again explore the dark side of rural America in this sombre and affecting drama. Ben Foster’s lead performance as a veteran wracked with PTSD living in the forests of Oregon is a career best, but young Thomasin McKenzie is the true revelation here. As Foster’s precocious daughter, she holds her own against veteran actors and comes away with not just the movie but our hearts. A true indie gem likely to be looked over by general audiences and the Academy, Leave No Trace is the perfect antidote for those wanting something other than multi-million dollar blockbusters and flashy awards bait.

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  1. Bumblebee

I never thought I’d ever place a Transformers movie on one of these lists, but I’m more than happy to say that Bumblebee makes the cut. Finally giving the fans what they wanted, this prequel/reboot junks everything about the Michael Bay entries that wore the franchise down and brings everything back to basics. A simple but heartfelt plot, engaging characters, and action sequences that can actually be comprehended by the human eye, Bumblebee didn’t have to do much to be the best Transformers movie ever given the competition, but I’m certainly glad it went the extra mile. [read full review here]

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  1. Deadpool 2

Whilst Deadpool 2 isn’t as groundbreaking as the first film, it’s still a more than worthy successor that brings the laughs where it counts. Ryan Reynolds has never seemed more comfortable in the skintight leather outfit of the Merc with a Mouth, and the addition of Josh Brolin’s Cable and Zazie Beetz’s Domino add further flavours to the Deadpool madness. Amongst all the bloody violence and expletive-heavy meta humour, Deadpool 2 also thankfully remembers the series has a heart too, and manages to turn one of the worst bad sequel clichés into something truly sweet. Hopefully, once the Disney/Fox merger is complete, Marvel are smart enough to let Reynolds keep doing his thing. [read full review here]

Ryan Reynolds and Zazie Beetz in Deadpool 2 (2018)

  1. Widows

Steve McQueen’s latest is certainly a big change in genre for the Oscar-winning director, but gratefully not in style or quality. Widows is a heist movie where the job comes last and the interpersonal character drama reigns queen, and every performance here is amongst the best its cast has ever given. Viola Davis further cements herself as Hollywood’s best no-nonsense hardcase, Elizabeth Debicki finally gets a meaty role to sink her talents into, and Daniel Kaluuya surprises as one hell of a messed-up enforcer. This heist may not be as glamorous as Ocean’s 8 or as flashy as a Mission: Impossible, but it certainly isn’t trying to be either of those things. [read full review here]

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  1. Revenge

The rape revenge sub-genre is often used merely for sleaze, and in this day and age it’s a trope we should have left behind long ago. But then here comes Revenge, a biting and relentless retort to the concept that indulges in its B movie inspirations whilst setting itself apart with a definitively feminist point-of-view. Coralie Fargeat in her feature debut directs with style and grit, painting a visceral picture that never shies away from being bloody or racy, but manages to avoid falling into exploitation. Its premise is simple and the characters basic, but they all serve the greater purpose of genre critique, and that simplicity allows the film shine with some of the best non-verbal storytelling in recent memory. Matilda Lutz’s lead performance is a star-making turn, and her character of Jen has the potential to become a cult icon for female lovers of action and horror cinema; she truly is the ultimate final girl.

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  1. A Star is Born

Apparently you can make the same movie four times and still make it work, as this 2018 remake of the 1976 remake of the 1954 remake of the 1937 original certainly proves. Who knew Lady Gaga was this good an actor or, for that matter, that Bradley Cooper was this good a singer and director? Wonderfully updating the timeless story of rising fame and fallen stardom to our modern perception of celebrity, A Star is Born will tug at the heartstrings of even those who have seen this story play out time and time again. Plus, the music is just gorgeous.

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  1. Isle of Dogs

Perhaps Wes Anderson should just stick to making stop-motion pictures, because that seems to be the only time I can ever stand his kitsch. Isle of Dogs is a beautifully animated and wonderfully witty animated adventure through a near-future Japan, with an all-star cast lending their voices to the slew of pups that are our heroes. Probably the most accessible film in Anderson’s catalogue to date, it has just enough cute factor to keep younger audiences engaged whilst providing oodles of hidden depths and background humour to make it an even richer experience for adults.

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  1. The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos brings his peculiar view of the world to the British costume drama in this biting and unnerving dark comedy that is also effectively a twisted parody of pandering Oscar bait dramas. Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz all deliver career-best performances in this quirky look back at the politics of yesteryear, reminding us that governments have always been rife with squabbling self-serving backstabbers. Whilst The Lobster for me remains Lanthimos’ perfect treatise on his view of humanity, The Favourite is a more-than-worthy companion piece that brings the sleaze and debauchery back to a genre often lacking in it.

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  1. Sorry to Bother You

Rapper Boots Riley makes his feature directorial debut with this wonderfully bizarre dystopian dark comedy that defies reasonable description. Most easily (if reductively) summed up as Brazil for the woke generation, Sorry to Bother You mixes biting socio-political satire and excellent performances from a varied cast with outlandish imagery and imaginative direction. There was no other movie like Sorry to Bother You this year, or in most years for that matter, and I can’t tell you much more than “go watch it” without giving away everything. This is a movie you need to see cold.

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  1. Crazy Rich Asians

Black representation in cinema was certainly big this year, but let’s not forget we also had the biggest western film with an all-Asian cast ever this year too, and a really great one at that. Crazy Rich Asians is a classic romantic comedy done right, indulging in the fantasy and glamour of the situation audiences want but also layering it with plenty of smart gags, emotional depth and social commentary. Constance Wu makes for a charming leading lady in the vein of early Julia Roberts, Henry Golding’s star-making turn could charm a hundred snakes at once, whilst Akwafina constantly threatens to steal the show. Can’t wait for the sequels!

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  1. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Melissa McCarthy too often sells herself short with the glut of subpar comedies she puts herself through, so colour me thankful she hasn’t forgotten who good of an actress she can actually be. A witty and filthy caper about forgery and the literary business, Can You Ever Forgive Me? balances comedy and crime expertly and McCarthy’s pathetic yet relatable performance as Lee Israel is a career-best. Richard E. Grant is equally brilliant as her flamboyant accomplice Jack Hock, giving easily his best performance in years, whilst Marielle Heller’s direction is whip smart and captivating. More movies like this please, Mrs. McCarthy!

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  1. BlacKkKlansman

Spike Lee returns to greatness with his best and most approachable film in over a decade, telling the shocking and often even hilarious true-life tale of how a black police officer infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan. John David Washington makes a strong leading man debut as Ron Stallworth, with Adam Driver ably supporting as his sceptical partner, along with Topher Grace in a surprising turn as KKK leader David Duke that will make you both cringe and laugh. With some of the best cringe-inducing comedy around and the most gut-punching final codas to a movie in recent memory, BlacKkKlansman is exactly the kind of movie we need in our racially-fraught climate.

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  1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

How can a franchise keep getting better after over two decades running? It’s the same question we ask every time a new Mission: Impossible movie comes out, and it’s one we may keep asking until Tom Cruise either gives up or dies. Whilst perhaps not the strongest film in regards to plot or character, Fallout wins for simply delivering some of the best action sequences of all kinds in recent memory. Every chase, every fistfight, every daring stunt; all of them shot and directed to as near to perfection you can get. There isn’t a moment in Fallout you will find boring, and I will say it again: how on Earth are they going to top this one?

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  1. Assassination Nation

So much of our culture has gotten toxic over the past few years, and nowhere is that more true than on the Internet. Assassination Nation is the first post-social media film to not only accurately portray the Snapchat generation, but honestly confront the noxious cults of personality it has spawned. Brutally violent, fiendishly witty and unafraid to cross any boundary, this one-of-a-kind mash-up of high school dramedy and apocalyptic survival flick through the lens of a modern-day Crucible is a must-see; this deserves to be this generation’s Fight Club. [read full review here]

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  1. Bad Times at the El Royale

It’s taken a while for Drew Goddard to follow up his feature directorial debut The Cabin in the Woods, but the wait was certainly worth it in my eyes. A character-driven, non-linear multi-strand period neo-noir thriller with an all-star cast and a cavalcade of snappy duologues? It’s practically a film buff’s fantasy. Bad Times at the El Royale certainly takes a few pages from the Tarantino playbook, but moves beyond mere pastiche to say something about not only our past but also our present and possible future; trends and behaviours are cyclical, after all. Definitely the most underrated film of the year, and one I hope eventually finds the cult audience it deserves.

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  1. The Hate U Give

Most YA books and their adaptations promote a filtered idea of rebellion and justice, but The Hate U Give skips the allegories and fights the real corruption in this hard-hitting but thoroughly digestible drama. Anchored together by Amandla Stenberg’s breakout lead performance, this film is unabashed in calling out police discrimination, biased media framing, cultural appropriation and casual racism without having to apologise for itself. With films like this and Love, Simon taking YA stories in a more progressive direction, I think this is truly a sign the next generation are to be trusted more than anyone in charge right now.

  1. Black Panther

Whilst not my favourite MCU film this year, it’s hard not to argue that Black Panther is the most culturally important. Superhero movies are no stranger to tackling real-world issues, but Ryan Coogler’s epic does so with tact and nuance, crafting a narrative even those with no knowledge of anything nerdy can relate to and get behind. The characters are engaging and memorable, the world is vibrant and bursting with imagination, and the commentary on systemic racism and bystander politics is timely and well integrated. It’s a movie that breaks down many barriers both on screen and in reality, and I hope this is a franchise that continues to do just that in future. [read full review here]

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  1. Searching

The screenwatch subgenre has seen its fair share of usage, but it’s not caught on in the same way found footage did a decade ago. However, Searching uses the style as more than just a gimmick, telling a simple but gripping thriller mystery with nothing but webcams and Google searches. John Cho’s performance as an apathetic father launched into a desperate quest to find his daughter is a career highlight, and Aneesh Chaganty’s direction perfectly captures the paranoia and uncertainty of the internet age. A sleeper hit easily missed by many, this is one of the few films I can think of that may actually benefit from being watched on a laptop rather than on the big screen.

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  1. Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther may have delivered an MCU movie enjoyable even by those who don’t like MCU movies, but on the opposite end we’ve got a movie made practically for the diehard fans that know this universe inside and out. Infinity War is a gargantuan saga that tests Marvel Studios’ storytelling abilities like no other previous project, and they solved the character overload problem in the most brilliant way: they made the movie about the bad guy. After years of teasing, Thanos’ wrath was more than worth the wait, but the surprising depths to his character and motivation made for a movie more nuanced than anyone expected. Because of that, on top of all the expected goodness of character mash-ups and action scene spectacle, is why this is easily the best Avengers instalment so far. Your move, Endgame. [read full review here]

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  1. Roma

Alfonso Cuaron only graces us with a film every so often, but every time it is so worth the wait. Returning to his routes after several big-budget outings, Roma is a simple but effective slice-of-life drama destined to go down in history as one of the masterpieces of foreign cinema. Featuring phenomenal performances from a cast of unknowns and non-actors, led by an especially heartbreaking turn by Yalitza Apricio, this is easily Cuaron’s most personal film to date. It’s a piece of cinema that, whilst mostly grounded in the mundane, finds the grandeur and cinematic potential in every conceivable moment. Cuaron’s beautiful black-and-white photography is gorgeous and features some of the best shots in cinema this year, and that beauty that makes it so tragic that most audiences (myself included) never got to see this on the big screen. On the plus side, Roma being a Netflix film means you have little excuse to miss out on it. Put aside some time, sit back, and experience the potential cinema still has as an art form.

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  1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

We’ve all been waiting for a Spider-Man movie to top Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, but I don’t think anyone expected this. Into the Spider-Verse is more than just the best Spider-Man movie ever. It’s a cinematic masterpiece that balances so many delicate plates and yet can still backflip without breaking any of them. The animation is a wonder to behold, the characters are vibrant and diverse and bursting with personality, and the story is a relatable heartfelt coming-of-age story that still crams in ridiculous amounts of clever fan service. Superhero movies are pretty popular these days, but this movie more than any other in the genre deserves to cross barriers. This is a movie I’d even recommend to someone who actively hates the concept of superheroes; it’s that good. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is my favourite film of the year not just because it panders to my interests or made me feel smart for understanding it. I loved it because it reminded me why I love genre storytelling, that I am not alone in loving these things, and that they can be and should be for everyone. [read full review here]

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MY TOP 25 MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS OF 2019

So with 2018 drawing to a close, it’s time once again to look forward to a new year of releases. As with most years, this list is full of the usual suspects: sequels, reboots, pieces of cinematic universes, and everything in between. However, as much as I love to be surprised by original films (and don’t worry, there are plenty of those in here too), a lot of these projects do have me genuinely excited. Some of that may be down to nostalgia, yes, but there’s also a lot of promise of innovation being expressed within these well-worn ideas. So here’s hoping everything on here lives up to expectations and that we aren’t in for yet another year of disappointment.

As usual, allow me to repeat the ground rules:

  1. This list is based on what is scheduled to come out in 2019 as of this moment. Some of these may get delayed to 2020 for a variety of reasons, but as of now they are due for release next year. Several films on this list were actually on last year’s and got delayed, so there is plenty of precedent.
  2. I’m only counting films that have a confirmed release for next year. There are plenty of films, generally smaller productions, that are in production with an aimed 2019 release, but they may well end up in 2020. Bottom line: if it doesn’t have a specific date on the release calendar in the US or UK, it’s not getting counted.
  3. Films that will be released here in the UK in 2019 but were released in the US in 2018 don’t count, so don’t expect to see films like Boy Erased, If Beale Street Could Talk or Vice on this list. Awards-buzz films like that have already had eyes on them, and this list is all about hype for projects the public have not seen yet.
  4. This is not a prediction of what I think will be the best films of 2019. Some will disappoint, and usually the best movies end up being the ones I haven’t heard of yet. These are merely the movies I am most excited for and/or interested to see, and their quality will be judged when I have actually seen them.

And now, let us proceed…

  1. Men in Black: International

Release Date: 14th June (US, UK)

The original Men in Black had so much promise to spawn a sprawling franchise that could go in hundreds of zany directions…but instead we got two sequels that only focused on trying in vain to recapture the dynamic of the first. Hopefully, junking both Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones and focusing on a new team of MIB agents will help start the slate clean. Focusing on the London branch of the extraterrestrial defence agency and billed as a globe-hopping murder mystery, MIB: International looks exactly like the fresh twist on the series we’ve been waiting for. Also, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson already proved themselves a winning combo in Thor: Ragnarok, so I can’t wait to see what they do here.

  1. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

Release Date: 10th May (US, UK)

Given Pokémon’s popularity over the past twenty years, it’s surprising that it’s taken until now to see a live-action film. Then again, Nintendo have up until now been super-protective of their properties since the Super Mario Bros. movie crashed in 1993. Even so, I don’t think anyone would have thought adapting Detective Pikachu was the obvious route to go. This could easily fall into the banal camp most CGI/live-action hybrids based on nostalgia properties do. However, the trailer is surprisingly promising and already shows they’ve jumped the first hurdle of faithfully bringing the world of Pokémon to life. I at least have more faith in it than the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Oh yeah, that comes out this year too.

  1. Hobbs and Shaw

Release Date: 2nd August (US, UK)

We’re not seeing a ninth Fast & Furious flick until 2020 at least, but this spin-off highlighting Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham’s characters seems like an ideal holdover. The two had remarkable chemistry in Fate of the Furious, and with Idris Elba as the villain and Deadpool 2’s David Leitch at the helm, this sounds like it could become a ridiculous guilty-pleasure franchise all on its own. Here’s hoping for more ridiculous stunts, cheesy one-liners, and hilariously unintentional homoerotic machismo between the two leads. But seriously, how are they going to top Jason Statham taking out bad guys on an airplane whilst carrying a baby?

  1. The Lion King

Release Date: 19th July (US, UK)

I don’t really understand the logic of this being a “live-action adaptation” given all the characters are CG talking animals, but I can’t deny there’s something intriguing about seeing a photo-realistic revision on The Lion King. Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book is the one the few Disney live-action films that undeniably works (we’re also getting new versions of Dumbo and Aladdin this year for some reason, but I have far less faith in those), so to see him back again to take this on is a good sign, and the phenomenal cast they’ve assembled only sweetens the deal. So glad they realised you can’t replace James Earl Jones as Mufasa and just brought him back.

  1. Joker

Release Date: 4th October (US, UK)

I knew it was only a matter of time before Marvel and/or DC started to make Elseworlds-style films set outside the main timeline (then again, you could argue the entire Dark Knight trilogy was essentially that), and for a first attempt this sounds like a really bold take. A Joker origin story is something that is incredibly hard to do because the character is often more interesting when you know less about him. However, given the filmmakers have frequently quoted The King of Comedy (Martin Scorcese’s most underrated film) as a key reference point down to casting Robert De Niro has me intrigued, and Joaquin Phoenix certainly has the chops to deliver a distinctive Clown Prince of Crime. It can’t get any more divisive than Jared Leto, can it?

  1. Alita: Battle Angel

Release Date: 6th February (UK), 14th February (US)

So this one has ended up on the list again after two delays, but I’m hopeful this new February release will give this a far better chance than its previous July and December dates ever could. There is every possibility that this is going to be yet another failed western adaptation of a manga, but simultaneously there’s just something about this project I can’t deny I’m excited about. Maybe I just like rooting for the ambitious underdog, maybe I’m still hopeful Robert Rodriguez can turn his career around, or maybe I’m just a sucker for cyberpunk fantasies with badass anime women at the centre. Actually, I think it’s all of those.

  1. BrightBurn

Release Date: 24th May (US, UK)

OK, now this is a last-minute surprise! We were already getting a superhero horror movie with the long-delayed The New Mutants this year, but BrightBurn looks like a way more interesting and bonkers take. An on-the-nose subversion of the Superman story with little subtlety, the mere premise seems like something out of a viral fan film, but this is a real Hollywood production with a budget and stars and everything. This could easily end up being silly or overwrought, but the premise alone has me sold. Plus, I want to see James Gunn succeed after his unfortunate dismissal from the MCU. I can now only imagine what his new bosses over at DC are thinking realising they’ve hired a man who has quite literally produced a twisted remake of Man of Steel.

  1. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Release Date: 31st May (US, UK)

I thought that last Godzilla movie was decent but only got worse on repeat viewings; even though that third act was pretty damn impressive, it wasn’t worth sitting through the poorly-paced lead-up with uninteresting human characters. Hopefully, this follow-up can deliver the gonzo energy promised in that climax throughout its runtime. Bringing in more monsters from the Toho mythos is the perfect way to ramp up intensity for the sequel, and the trailers certainly promise a lot of big kaiju action whilst maintaining the artful grounded aesthetic of the previous film. Then again, the trailers for the last movie bit more off than they could chew, so I’m not going to hype it up in my mind too much. Here’s hoping it embraces more of the brazenly ridiculous elements like its sister film Kong: Skull Island did. The two beasts are going to be fighting that title match in 2020 after all…

  1. Glass

Release Date: 18th January (US, UK)

If you told me even five years ago that I’d be highly anticipating a new M. Night Shyamalan movie, I’d have thought you were crazy, especially since five years ago was 2013 and After Earth had just come out and was awful. However, the man has made a startling career U-turn and now we’re looking at the finale of his long-promised Unbreakable trilogy. To see the worlds of Unbreakeable and Split collide is something I never thought I’d be excited about, but damn do I really want to see this!

  1. Missing Link

Release Date: 5th April (UK), 12th April (US)

This was also only my list last year, but back then it was just “Untitled Laika Movie”. Now we know what it is, and that knowledge has only increased my excitement. Sure, it seems bizarre to have another animated Bigfoot movie out so soon after Smallfoot (and with Dreamworks’ Abominable out in 2019 too), but Missing Link certainly stands out from its competitors already. With a stellar voice cast and Laika’s always-gorgeous animation style, something would have to go terribly wrong for this to be anything but good.

  1. Spider-Man: Far From Home

Release Date: 5th July (US), N/A (UK)

I liked Homecoming a fair bit and it has only improved on repeat viewing for me, but it doesn’t come close to the first two Raimi movies and certainly nowhere near Into the Spider-Verse‘s brilliance. However, I’m still excited to see how Far From Home takes the character in a post-Endgame MCU, and my undying love for the character will always have me excited to see a new instalment. Sending Spidey abroad is certainly an interesting way to freshen things up, and finally pitting him against fan favourite villain Mysterio also has me immensely excited. He’d better be wearing that fishbowl though or no dice. It’s not Mysterio if he doesn’t look fabulously ridiculous.

  1. It: Chapter Two

Release Date: 6th September (US, UK)

It sprang up to become the highest-grossing horror film of all time, so the follow-up has a lot to live up to. Splitting the classic Stephen King story into two parts was a wise decision, but it also leaves us with the unfortunate reality that the modern day sections of the novel are, well, kinda not very good. Then again, the first film did a solid job of reinvigorating and mending the holes of the book, and along with the stellar cast they’ve assembled to play the adult members of The Losers’ Club, it makes me think they might be able to make a follow-up that won’t disappoint like the ending to the original did.

  1. John Wick: Chapter Three

Release Date: 17th May (US, UK)

The John Wick movies have had a huge impact on the action genre lately, reminding filmmakers that slick choreography and coherent cinematography trumps shaky-cam and quick cuts every time. Topping Chapter Two is going to be a tough task, but the tease for what is to come in Chapter Three left at the end of that movie can’t help but get me excited for this. Whether this film finds new ways to innovate the formula or just delivers the same quality level of awesome action from it predecessors, I think I’m going to be happy.

  1. Hellboy

Release Date: 12th April (US, UK)

Would I have rather seen Guillermo del Toro’s vision for Hellboy 3? Definitely. But am I glad to see him back on the screen anyway? Hell yeah! (pun firmly intended) With cult favourite Neil Marshall getting the biggest shot of his career so far, creator Mike Mignola heavily involved in production, and David Harbour getting his shot at leading man status much in the same way Ron Perlman got his with the original Hellboy, there’s a lot to get excited about with what little we’ve been given so far. Comic book movies aren’t going away, so let’s at least get as many weirdy ones like this out there to mix things up.

  1. Toy Story 4

Release Date: 21st June (US, UK)

To be completely honest, I would have rather they let this series end where it did. As much as Pixar has claimed they don’t make sequels unless they have a good idea, we still have Cars 2 as evidence to the contrary (and considering this film was also something pushed through by the now-ousted John Lasseter, that has me worried). Then again, Toy Story has yet to set a wrong foot in any form, and I can’t deny my childish curiosity of what Woody and Buzz are up to now. They are immortal plastic beings after all, and it will have been nine years between instalments by the time this comes out, so maybe now is the time to revisit this troupe of toys yet again.

  1. The Kid Who Would Be King

Release Date: 25th January (US), 15th February (UK)

And here’s yet another one that was on my list last year that got delayed. I’ve been waiting on tender hooks for Joe Cornish to make his follow-up to Attack the Block, and we’re finally getting it this year. Once again, it looks like we’re getting a mash-up of high-concept fantasy falling into the hands of contemporary British youths, but this time instead of aliens we’ve got Arthurian legend. The Kid Who Would Be King seems to be aimed more at the family audience compared to Cornish’s directorial debut, but his sharp wit and his ability to mash the unreal with the mundane seems just as on point. Here’s hoping this becomes a modern family classic.

  1. Frozen 2

Release Date: 22nd November (US, UK)

I will be honest: I do still unashamedly love Frozen, but I am not a fan of the culture it has spawned. However, even though I know this sequel will only continue to proliferate the phenomenon that hasn’t gone away since the first film’s release, I can’t help but be excited for it. I want to know where they can take this story and these characters. I want to be surprised by how else they can deconstruct the Disney formula whilst still respecting it. And yes, I want to hear all the earworm songs they’ll inevitably get stuck in my head. Indeed, it seems after all this time, even I can’t bring myself to completely let it go.

  1. Zombieland Too

Release Date: 11th October (US, UK)

I know, I know: director Ruben Fleischer never managed to live up to his debut with Zombieland, especially after delivering the bizarre mess that was Venom. However, not only has its cast done phenomenally well for themselves, but its screenwriters Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick have never been doing better and were the real secret to the original’s success. A decade later, there is no better time than now to return to the apocalypse. Seeing these characters after so long, how much they’ve developed over the years, and still kicking ass against the zombie menace, tickles every nostalgia itch in my body. Even if it doesn’t live up to the first, it still can’t get any worse than that ill-fated attempt at a Zombieland TV show. Yeah, that really didn’t work.

  1. Shazam!

Release Date: 5th April (US, UK)

Shazam is a hero that has deserved a movie for a long time, and is definitely one that feels like it should have come out during a more innocent time. Well, it seems like the filmmakers have recognised that and gone for a tone and aesthetic closer to superhero movies from the 90s and 00s, but in a good way. Zachary Levi looks like a perfect match to bring DC’s big kid hero to the big screen, and marks yet another huge change of gear for the DCEU going forward. After Aquaman delivered on the zany aquatic action nonsense, I’m all for the universe continuing in that direction as opposed to more doom and gloom.

  1. Us

Release Date: 15th March (US, UK)

With his debut feature Get Out becoming an instant phenomenon, Jordan Peele has a huge task ahead of him in constructing his sophomore effort. With Us, the comedian-turned-horror maestro definitely seems to be playing with the same toybox as his previous film but with a completely unique hook. Doppelgängers have always been a creepy subject matter for horror, and Peele’s vision of an average family haunted by twisted versions of themselves is a premise ripe for both scares and Peele’s particular brand of social commentary. I was excited about Us before I even knew what it was, but now that hype is certainly confirmed.

  1. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Release Date: 1st February (UK), 22nd February (US)

The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy finally comes to a close this year after many delays, and the wait has only increased my hunger to see where this story finally goes after nearly a decade since it began. How to Train Your Dragon 2 moved the franchise forward in a bold direction, and though The Hidden World so far doesn’t look like as bold a leap as last time, there’s still a chance it will surprise us. For all we know, this may not be the last time we see this world, but I at least hope it finally brings an end to the story of Hiccup and Toothless.

  1. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Release Date: 8th February (US, UK)

Speaking of long-delayed animated follow-ups, after several spin-offs we’re finally getting a direct sequel to The Lego Movie! The lack of Phil Lord & Chris Miller in the director’s chair is worrying, but they’re still on board as writers and producers so they’re touch isn’t totally lost. There is still worry that this is a joke that can’t work twice, but The Second Part shows plenty of indication just from the trailer that they’re going to take the satirical deconstructionist approach in a new direction this time around, and I for one can’t wait to see what new wacky ideas Lord & Miller have concocted this time.

  1. Star Wars Episode IX

Release Date: 20th December (US), N/A (UK)

After The Last Jedi cleared the board for the franchise to go in any direction, it’s worrying that we now have JJ Abrams back in the director’s chair. Not because he’s an untalented filmmaker, but because there’s a fear he may undo all the progress made in the last film by reverting to The Force Awakens’ retrofitting approach; it’d be extra-tempting too considering the nebulous backlash to Rian Johnson’s opus. Even I fear that may happen, but I also hope Abrams is not that stupid. Star Wars has a chance here to prove it doesn’t have to bow to the whims of whiny fans who just want injections of nostalgia. The series has the opportunity to end the trilogy in a way that bucks all trends and sets the series up to go on forever in new and interesting ways. I hope they take it.

  1. Avengers: Endgame

Release Date: 26th April (US, UK)

And so it all comes to this. Infinity War left the state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in utter despair, and every fan on Earth has been chomping at the bit to see what happens next. We still know very little about Endgame, but from the title alone it’s clear this instalment is going to have huge ramifications for the franchise moving forward. I think it’s a given that not every bad thing that happened in Infinity War is going to remain that way, but I’d just as much say there is just as much change some shocking things will endure, and with many more to add. I can only speculate at this point, but that feeling of the unknown is what makes me more excited about this movie that any other this year…except for—

  1. Captain Marvel

Release Date: 8th March (US, UK)

Endgame may be the big Marvel blowout of 2019, but on a more personal level Captain Marvel is the movie I’m far more invested in. After DC finally cracked the code for female-led superhero movies with Wonder Woman, all eyes are on Marvel to respond, and Captain Marvel looks like a more-than-worthy answer. Every decision here has been the smart one. Brie Larson is a perfect choice for Carol Danvers, they’ve wisely switched up the origin to downplay comparisons to Green Lantern, the 1990s setting is a unique touch that further sets it apart, and directors Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck are yet another bold choice from Marvel that’ll give this flick a unique flavour. Pile on the introduction of the Skrulls to the MCU and young versions of Nick Fury and Agent Coulson, and this already has everything I could want from a Captain Marvel movie. Almost all the films of on this list I have doubts about, but I feel wholly confident in saying Captain Marvel is going to be one hell of a time at the multiplex.

MY TOP 25 FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2017

Well, this may be up a bit later than usual, but at least I got this thing out before the Oscars. Before I can make a definitive best of list, I always need to see every film I think stands a chance of making the cut, and that means waiting for all the awards seasons releases to slowly drip out over January and February in the UK. There are always a few that slip by I later see and would have included in retrospect, but right now I feel confident in saying these are indeed my twenty-five favourite films of 2017. If you haven’t seen some of these, do your utmost to seek them out, especially my more obscure picks that probably slipped under your radar. More than any of the big blockbusters and awards darlings on here, they deserve to be seen the most.

Honourable Mentions 

Logan Lucky

Wonder

Split

Dunkirk

Phantom Thread


  1. It

Let’s be brutally honest here: the 1990 TV miniseries version of Stephen King’s It isn’t very good; if it wasn’t for Tim Curry’s iconic performance, I doubt many would even remember it. Thankfully, this new version takes everything that worked about the story in its previous incarnations and improves on it, shaving away the more bizarre and uncomfortable moments of the novel to create something far more nuanced and effectively frightening. Bill Skarsaard’s performance as Pennywise is just as immediately captivating as Curry’s for completely different reasons, but he’s matched by a fantastic troupe of child actors as our heroes, making its moments of childhood nostalgia just as captivating as its skin-crawling scares.

  1. Wind River

Taylor Sheridan, screenwriter of Sicario and Hell of High Water, takes a bold and surprising first outing in the director’s chair for this chilling thriller set in the titular vast and dangerous Native American reservation. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen shed their respective Marvel personas for a brutal and depressingly realistic look at what happens when we ignore crime right under our noses. This film contains some of the best work in the careers of everyone involved, and it’s an absolute crime that it’s been so seriously overlooked (mainly because it was one of the last films released by The Weinstein Company before…well, you’ve read the news, I’m sure). Regardless, if you missed out on this one, give it a look.

  1. John Wick: Chapter 2

This sequel to one of the most engaging and visceral action movies in modern cinema takes everything that worked about the first film and amps it up. The fascinating underworld of the assassins is expanded, characters both new and old are given more depth, and of course the action is even more off-the-wall, balancing bloodshed and dark humour like the Hong Kong actioners it is clearly inspired by. Keanu Reeves hasn’t been this good since the first Matrix, and I cannot wait to see where the series can go after that hell of a sequel promise.

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Though it doesn’t top the originality of its predecessor, this follow-up doubles down on the emotion and the heart to deliver a more than satisfactory experience. Every character new and old gets a chance to shine, it opens up the cosmic end of the MCU to multitudes of new possibilities, and of course the gonzo comedy stylings of James Gunn continue to make it a fascinatingly idiosyncratic corner of the Marvel Universe to explore. We may be seeing the Guardians again soon in Infinity War, but I’m far more excited to see what they get up to in their next movie away from the hubbub of the overarching Marvel story.

  1. Battle of the Sexes

Emma Stone and Steve Carrell give some career-best performances in this timely and feel-good biopic about one of history’s greatest sports match-ups. A wonderful call for female equality, LGBT rights and true sportsmanship, Battle of the Sexes is exactly the kind of movie we need in a period where those ideals are starting to deteriorate. Whilst certainly no classic like directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ indie hit Little Miss Sunshine (or even their totally overlooked follow-up Ruby Sparks), anyone who loves a sports movie will find this refreshing and invigorating.

  1. Baby Driver

Edgar Wright is starting to run the risk of going full Tarantino, but that doesn’t mean Baby Driver isn’t one hell of a fun ride. A witty script, beautifully choreographed action sequences, and one heck of a toe-tapping soundtrack, and this heist movie/almost-musical is like a shot of pure adrenaline from start to finish. It shows Wright can handle a film that isn’t an outright comedy, which hopefully he expands on and further branches away from his Three Flavours Cornetto roots. Not even Kevin Spacey’s presence can dampen the fun. Well, at least not too much. At least he’s playing a bad guy.

  1. I, Tonya

The true-life story behind the rise and fall of Tonya Harding is so strange and full of potential for a movie, it’s surprising that it took so long for a biopic to get off the ground. Thankfully, this tongue-in-cheek retelling from Craig Gillespie approaches the material from a fresh and thoroughly entertaining perspective. The film fully acknowledges the conflicting sides of the story to craft a narrative that embraces the insanity and dark humour of the situation, leaving you to find the truth in the madness. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney give the best performances of their respective careers as Harding and her mother, but special mention must also go to Paul Walter Hauser as Harding’s deluded bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt; he often threatens to steal the movie from right under them.

  1. Blade Runner 2049

The original Blade Runner took years of reappraisal to be seen as the masterpiece it is regarded as today, but 2049 has seen the praise it deserves right off the bat. Denis Villeneuve understands what made the first film so great and brings that world to life with not just better technology but a fresh perspective. It’s a gorgeous film on every technical level but it has an engaging narrative too, with probably the best deconstruction of the Hollywood narrative since The LEGO Movie. It’s a shame the film wasn’t as commercially successful as it was critically, but on the bright side that does mean one thing: we probably won’t be seeing another Blade Runner. After this so eloquently capped off the story of the first, nothing else really needs to be said.

  1. Molly’s Game

Aaron Sorkin makes a hell of a directorial debut with this look into the world of high stakes poker and the woman who gained and lost everything taking it over. With a magnetic leading performance from Jessica Chastain and fantastic supporting work from Idris Elba and Michael Cera, this film has all the fast-paced witty dialogue you’d expect from a Sorkin piece, but is at its heart a story about one woman’s quest to show up the men at their own game. It’s maybe not Sorkin’s greatest work, but as a first feature it’s a mighty fine achievement, and even his scraps have more canniness and insight than most Hollywood screenplays.

  1. Thor: Ragnarok

Not only the best film in the Thor series but also the best MCU entry of 2017, Ragnarok got away with so much for just being so damn fun. Infused with Taika Waititi’s quirky sense of humour and a funky 80s aesthetic, this movie delivers unironic superhero fun that ignores modern expectations of the genre whilst still neatly fitting into its shared universe and bringing Thor’s arc from across the three films to an interesting new status quo. If all future Thor films could be this good, they should get Waititi to work right away. Also, Marvel, could you do us all a favour and find as many ways possible to work Korg into future movies?

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  1. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

The most criminally overlooked film of the year, this biopic about one of the most unique and undervalued figures of both science and storytelling is worth seeking out for anyone with an interest in feminism and unconventional romance. Luke Evans gives a career best performance as the titular Marston, but Rebecca Hall ultimately steals the show as his strong-willed and inspirational wife. In the year Wonder Woman took over the pop culture discussion, the trials and tribulations of her creator should be remembered and this film is a worthy tribute to his odd but prescient vision.

  1. The Disaster Artist

A modern spiritual successor to Ed Wood, this comedic re-enactment of the making of The Room serves as both a hilarious mockery and a touching tribute to one of the most bizarre films of the modern era and the mysterious eccentric figure behind it all. James Franco is phenomenal as Tommy Wiseau, perfectly inhabiting and disappearing into the larger-than-life character whilst still making him relatable. It’s a movie that’ll make you laugh, but it’ll also make you angry and maybe even cry. It just sums up so well the weird experience that is making a movie.

  1. The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is easily one of the greatest cinematic minds of this generation, and the fact he hasn’t received more critical praise is baffling to me. The Shape of Water marks his first time he’s flirted with awards-worthiness since Pan’s Labyrinth, delivering a movie that could have only come from the mind of del Toro whilst also hitting beats with such emotional efficiency that even his best more straight-laced peers couldn’t match. Sally Hawkins delivers one of the best silent performances of the modern era, communicating so much with simple facial and body movement, perfectly complimented by the similarly-mute Doug Jones as the amphibious man.

  1. Logan

It took them three tries, but someone finally managed to make the Wolverine movie we’ve always dreamed of. The staunchest departure from superhero norms since Batman Begins, Logan is the perfect cap to Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the titular mutant and delivers not only his best performance as the character, but perhaps even his entire career. Supported by equally moving performances from Patrick Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen, this is a gritty revisionist western first and an X-Men movie second, and no other film in the genre should even try to attempt copying it. It’s certainly the best it is at what it does, and what it does is hella nice.

  1. Lady Macbeth

Though this British indie period film has no huge stars on either side of the camera, all of its major players deserve to go somewhere and I guarantee some definitely will. Lady Macbeth is a beautiful and haunting picture that takes the concept of female empowerment and turns it on its head; it’s like if a Jane Austen novel was adapted by a deranged maniac. Florence Pugh’s lead performance is undoubtedly star-making material, and is a welcome shot in the arm for a rather staid genre. If only all costume dramas were this deliciously sick.

  1. Call Me By Your Name

To call this film the Brokeback Mountain of the 2010s is a disservice to both films, because Call Me By Your Name is defined by far more than just its LGBT subject matter. It’s a whimsical and lyrical framing of adolescence that anyone can relate to, perfectly capturing the emotional confusion and internal torment those years are for anyone; it’s simply more heartbreaking for those who do feel especially different. Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg all deliver awards-worthy performances, and if Luca Guadagnino really wants to do an Antoine Doinel-like series following these characters over several years I’m all for it.

  1. War for the Planet of the Apes

The most cohesive and consistently excellent trilogy of its kind since The Lord of the Rings, the final chapter in Caesar’s story may be his finest. Bringing together everything that’s been built since Rise from character development to socio-political commentary and giving it all the poetic ending it deserves is an immensely satisfying experience, and to see a CGI-heavy Hollywood blockbuster actually slow down and put focus on character over action is a miracle in and of itself. Andy Serkis’ work on these films cements his dominance as a performance capture artist, and I think he more than deserves an Oscar already for that. C’mon, a Special Achievement award at least.

  1. Get Out

To see a film as daring and distinctive as Get Out not only take over the pop culture zeitgeist but receive praise from all corners of the film world is simply astounding. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is a thrilling, intelligent and darkly funny examination of how modern society sees race that brings out an uncomfortable feeling in everyone. The lead performances by Daniel Kaluuya, Alison Williams and Bradley Whitford are all fantastic, but it’s Peele’s expert understanding of horror tropes that defines why this movie works so well. If he can continue delivering films of this calibre whilst remaining fresh and evolving his style, we may have the next iconic filmmaker on our hands.

  1. The Big Sick

To make a film explicitly about your own romance could be seen as immodest, but Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s tearjerker is one more than worth hearing. A truly modern love story that covers topics like interracial relations, religion, the lives of immigrants and an unpretentious view of the struggles of an artist, The Big Sick evolves what a romantic comedy can do whilst still delivering the laughs and the heartbreak you want. It’s the best movie of its kind in a long time, and Nanjiani’s real chance to redefine himself as an unconventional leading man instead of yet another comedy sidekick.

  1. mother!

Probably the most divisive film of the year, Darren Aronofsky’s deeply symbolic and evocative ode to the decay of humanity is certainly not for everyone, but deserves to at least be witnessed by everyone. Jennifer Lawrence finally gets a chance to breathe as an actress again after so many Hollywood vehicles, reminding us all why we took her seriously in the first place, but it’s Aronofsky and his twisted vision for the film that defines what mother! is as a piece. Call it preachy, call it crass, call it whatever you want. What you can’t deny is that it is a distinctive film, and one that could have only come from this director’s mind.

  1. The Florida Project

Sean Baker finally gets the recognition he deserves after Tangerine was mostly ignored with this whimsical but honest portrayal of the poverty happening right under the noses of the first world. Brooklynn Prince makes an outstanding debut as Moonee, immediately marking her as a child actor to look out for, whilst Willem Dafoe gives the most distinct and memorable performance he has in a long time. A true snapshot of the real USA hiding under what remains of façade that used to be The American Dream, The Florida Project is equal parts uplifting and soul-crushing; a true-life tragedy shot through the lens of a fairy tale.

  1. Wonder Woman

The Spirit of Truth has been long-overdue her big screen debut, and Patty Jenkins’ barrier-shattering film exceeds all expectations. A revelatory lead performance by Gal Gadot, a beautifully told origin story that echoes the greatness of Richard Donner’s Superman, the vividly realized world of Themiscyra and the Amazons, and the majestical brilliance of the No Man’s Land sequence. No summer blockbuster even came close to capturing the same level of entertainment as Wonder Woman, setting a high standard for future female-led superhero movies to come. This movie is so good, it almost makes up for entire rest of the DC Extended Universe so far. Emphasis on almost.

  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rian Johnson’s entry into cinema’s most enduring and popular franchise has been met with widely contradictory opinions across the board, and I can understand why. The Last Jedi seeks to challenge everything you thought you knew about Star Wars, breaking down and reconstructing the series in ways some saw as heresy but I say is revolution. This movie was clearly made by someone who loves Star Wars, but isn’t so blinded by their adoration that they can’t criticise it or leave their own mark. Johnson does exactly that, making it the boldest and most emotionally-engaging entry in the series since The Empire Strikes Back. The Last Jedi may not be the Star Wars movie fans wanted, but it is the movie we needed, and that matters more than any butthurt fanboy’s disapproval.

  1. Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut may seem like yet another coming-of-age indie with all the trappings you’d expect, but what Lady Bird lacks in originality it makes up for in details and perspective. The film doesn’t exaggerate or sugarcoat the high school experience, fully portraying the truth of teenage life rather than succumbing to the clichés that John Hughes movies and soap operas have convinced us high school was like. Saorise Ronan’s Lady Bird is the verifiable definition of a genuine teenage girl, and is ably supported by brilliant supporting turns from Laurie Metcalf and Beanie Feldstein, but it’s ultimately Gerwig’s quirky but honest voice that brings this one over the finish line. No matter how far removed you are from your adolescence, this is a movie that needs to be experienced.

  1. A Fantastic Woman

It is not lost on me that, in the year I finally came out as a trans woman, both my favourite and least favourite films of 2017 are about trans women. But whilst Tomboy is a degrading and ill-conceived drudge of a film that reinforces so many negative stereotypes, A Fantastic Woman acknowledges but fights back against those preconceptions. In a medium that always depicts the trans community as alternatively disgusting, laughable or as objects of pity, Sebastian Leilo’s visceral and heart-wrenching drama is absolutely proud of its protagonist as she battles prejudice and ignorance. Daniela Vega’s lead performance is astounding on any metric, but as both a trans woman and a first-time actress it’s truly awe-inspiring. Watching this movie is like glimpsing into the future of cinema: diverse, vibrant and uplifting, but without ignoring the mistakes of the past. This is a true gem of a movie that most moviegoers will overlook, so do not be a part of that pack. See this movie however you can (legally, of course). You’ll cry, you’ll be inspired, and hopefully you’ll learn something too.

MY TOP 20 MOST DESPISED FILMS OF 2017

Much like 2016, 2017 wasn’t a year chocked to the brim with bad movies. Most films that weren’t good were just generic or failing to live up to expectations, and plenty of those movies have ended up on this list. However, there is still plenty of crap to recap too. Franchises that began or continued to disappoint, adaptations and revivals that began on completely the wrong foot, and new ideas ill-conceived from the very beginning. So pinch your nose and have a glass of water ready for swilling, because we are about to recount the very worst movies I saw that stank up cinemas (or in some cases, streaming services) this year.

20. Death Note

One of the two big manga adaptations of the year, Death Note gets a lot more right than most previous attempts at bringing the Japanese form to the west but still ultimately falls flat. The film has some fun Final Destination-style deaths and Willem Dafoe’s casting as Ryuk is genius, but the film’s muddled characterisation and rushed narrative ruin an adaptation that had a lot of potential. Director Adam Wingard has made some great stuff before and he clearly had the right eye for the material, but he simply didn’t have enough time to tell this story; maybe a miniseries would have been a better fit.

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19. Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Talk about a disappointing follow-up to a promising franchise. The Golden Circle isn’t an awful movie and has some really great standout moments, but compared to the first film it is an utterly pedestrian sequel. What isn’t just rehashed from the original falls flat, there’s no real character development for either the new or returning characters, and the attempts at social commentary feel confused and unfocused. No sequel since Men in Black II has failed to move a franchise forward more than this film.

18. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales/Salazar’s Revenge

This series ran out of steam about ten years ago, but that hasn’t stopped Disney from raking a few more dollars in from franchise nostalgia and Johnny Depp’s quickly waning stardom. Though it wins points for dropping the needlessly complex plotting of the other sequels, this fifth instalment instead decides to explain nothing and is just a string of bizarre set pieces haphazardly stitched together, and it ruins what should have been a decent conclusion to the franchise with promises of yet more rehashing to come.

17. The Dark Tower

This adaptation of Stephen King’s beloved metafiction fantasy franchise has been stuck in development hell for ages, and it ultimately wasn’t worth the wait. Though stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaheughy try their hardest, they can’t fight against a stupendously generic screenplay and a crushingly brief runtime that kicks the movie out the door before it even has time to explain its mythos properly. This was supposed to be the start of some great multimedia franchise, but instead we’ll probably have to wait another ten years or so for someone to take another shot at this property.

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16. Monster Trucks

A concept so bizarre it sounds like it was created by a child (and, as it turns out, literally was), Monster Trucks is a movie that was destined to fail from the word go. Though it has its earnest moments that call back to the great kids’ movies of the 80s and 90s, the hackneyed plot and barebones characters overshadow the film’s wacky premise completely. If this movie wanted to succeed, it needed to go full-on bonkers, but as is it just falls flat into mediocrity.

15. Murder on the Orient Express

Kenneth Branagh is an extremely hit-or-miss director, and with this adaptation of the Agatha Christie classic he has swung hard and missed completely. The entire experience feels like Branagh’s ego trip as he takes over the film entirely with his ridiculous performance and an extreme sense of artifice. He makes one of the most famous whodunits feel like a farce, and the film’s impressive supporting cast ends up either wasted or embarrassed.

14. Bright

It seems like David Ayer learned nothing from Suicide Squad and has delivered us yet another genre mash-up with rushed pacing, inconsistent characterisation and jarring tonal shifts. The film is trying to be a combo of Training Day and Lord of the Rings, but all it ends up being is Alien Nation with fantasy tropes in place of sci-fi; it’s just window dressing to a generic cop thriller. The world building is undercooked at best, the social commentary is obvious and borders on offensive, and the story suddenly ends just as its getting started for a lame sequel hook. Honestly, just watch Zootopia again instead; it’s much more entertaining and surprisingly more adult in how it deals with similar subject matter.

13. Alien: Covenant

Prometheus was a pretty divisive movie, but with this sequel Ridley Scott has pretty much sabotaged his own franchise. What starts as an unremarkable but competently executed throwback to the original Alien quickly turns into a pretentious and ridiculous experience that jettisons years of series mythology for the sake of a horrible new status quo and Scott’s pretentious fascination with god complexes. This film easily beats out the Star Wars prequels in how it ruins and misunderstands the point of a franchise, and I can only hope this film’s failure has killed the series before it can harm itself anymore.

12. Ghost in the Shell

This live-action adaptation of the classic manga is a mere shell of its original self, removing all the subtlety and nuance of the original and boiling it down to a bland action movie. The film may be visually stunning, but it’s a hollow experience underneath that is too dumb for intellectuals but too boring for thrillseekers. And on top of that, the film’s attempt to temper whitewashing accusations sidesteps the banana peel only to trip into an open manhole. Seriously, were they trying to piss us off?

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11. The Book of Henry

No movie on this list is more bizarrely conceived than this utterly perplexing mashup of genres and tones. Colin Trevorrow and his cast are certainly trying, but nothing can overcome how utterly confusing and mawkish this premise is; there’s a reason this screenplay has been sitting on a shelf for two decades. I don’t think even the most skilled director could have pulled off what this movie is trying to do, and Trevorrow has all but ruined his own reputation with this preposterous bomb of a movie.

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10. Fist Fight

Both Charlie Day and Ice Cube can be very funny in the right roles, but here they are left with nothing to work with but their worst assets. Fist Fight is an incoherent, mean-spirited mess of a comedy where Day only ends up looking like a good guy because everyone else are cartoonish assholes. The film is at least noble for trying to highlight the problems in an underfunded school system, but it too often clashes with the aggressive and ill-judged tone it otherwise goes with. Not even the titular fist fight is worth sitting through this garbage fire for.

9. Baywatch

Baywatch tries to do exactly what 21 Jump Street did when it adapted a goofy TV show to the big screen, but from a lazy and cynical perspective rather than one brimming with irony and wit. When the film isn’t just lampshading its own shortcomings by pointing out the flaws in its own plot, the gags amount to nothing more than bad sex jokes; did we really need a five minute scene of a character getting his junk stuck in a deckchair? Not even Dwayne Johnson’s infectious charisma could save this floundering wreck from drowning at the box office.

8. The Great Wall

China is becoming an ever-increasing audience for cinema, but this attempt to bridge the gap between east and west only brought out the worst in both cultures. The plot is ridiculous and underdeveloped, the characters lack enough definition to care about one way or the other, and the beautiful design work is constantly undermined by lacklustre CGI. Zhang Yimou has made much better films in the past and I’m sure he’ll make more, but this project did him no favours.

7. The Mummy

This film will forever serve as the perfect example of how not to start a cinematic universe, but even on its own merits The Mummy is just an awful film. The story is nothing but a flurry of exposition dumps, the action set pieces fail to be either thrilling or scary, and the entire production feels like it was torn apart to stroke Tom Cruise’s ego. Universal has been trying so hard to get this Dark Universe project to work, but maybe they should put this baby to bed before it does any more damage.

6. The Circle

The Circle is just a shambles from top to bottom. What should have been the perfect cautionary tale for the social media age is instead presented here like the half-remembered fever dream of a concerned mother who doesn’t quite understand how the Internet works. The star-studded cast feels entirely wasted, the visual aesthetic is drab and obvious, and the film completely fumbles the landing of its not-really-a-message.

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5. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Fifteen years and six movies on, and this franchise still hasn’t figured out what would make even a decent Resident Evil movie. This film feels even more separated from its video games roots than its predecessors, and only further complicates the already strange and inconsistent mythology of the franchise. The action scenes are atrociously put together, characters both old and new have a complete lack of personality, and despite being the ostensible final instalment it still doesn’t fully screw the cap on the series. Please, just let this be the end already.

4. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Guy Ritchie and Arthurian legend? It doesn’t seem like an obvious combination for a Hollywood blockbuster, and in practice you can see why. Legend of the Sword adds nothing interesting to the story of King Arthur except more chosen one clichés, and Ritchie’s quirky style only confuses things even more; it’s like if A Knight’s Tale took itself completely seriously. This was supposed to be the start of some epic new franchise, but instead it’s a misshapen mess that makes the 2004 Antoine Fuqua version seem respectable by comparison.

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3. Fifty Shades Darker

I’m not sure whether Fifty Shades Darker is better or worse than Fifty Shades of Grey, but whichever way it’s not by much. The film is basically just the most dull and shallow romance fantasy ever conceived, interrupted roughly every twenty minutes for a softcore porno scene. The story is non-existent, the actors clearly don’t want to be there, and yet people still flock in the thousands to watch this utterly bland drivel. If you’re going to make filth, at least make it entertaining filth.

2. Transformers: The Last Knight

Five films in, and the Transformers franchise is showing no signs of recovery even after abandoning most of the cast and finally getting some new writers on board. But the main symptom that is Michael Bay still persists, and he is more incoherent and adrenaline-riddled here than ever before. The Last Knight barely even resembles the first film at this point, let alone the innocent source material that inspired it. Only this year’s upcoming Bumblebee spin-off will prove if this series can recover in Bay’s absence, but considering this fifth film’s utter failure at the box office compared to its billion-dollar predecessors, here’s hoping the man finally moves away from the robots in disguise.

1. The Assignment/Tomboy

Picking a straight-to-VOD movie as the worst film of the year seems like a cheap move, but this flick isn’t made by untalented hacks. It’s directed by Walter Hill, the man behind 48 Hours, The Warriors and personal cheeseball favourite Streets of Fire. It boasts a cast including Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver. It’s been a passion project of Hill’s since his golden years of directing, and now he’s finally been able to bring his vision to the screen…and it is absolute dogshit. Putting aside the god-awful writing, the utterly abysmal performances and the lazy direction, this film is offensive right from the basic premise. As a trans person, I cannot condone the film’s inaccurate and scaremongering portrayal of the trans community that makes Dressed to Kill look like an advocacy film; the fact this script was originally written in the 70s is blatantly obvious. Hill has tried to defend the film as a tribute to old-school B movies, but that’s not good enough. You can still be lurid and lowbrow whilst not being derogatory, and this is exactly the type of film that keeps the trans community down. So fuck this movie back to the drawer where this script has been sitting for forty years and where it should have stayed!

MY MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS OF 2018

A fantastically varied year of film has come to an end, and looking forward to 2018 there’s a lot to be excited about. Highly-anticipated sequels, franchises returning from the dead, adaptations finally coming to life, and fascinating new original projects from some of cinema’s greatest minds; it’s shaping up to be a landmark year. And so as we leave 2017 behind, it’s time to take a look at twenty-five films coming out this year I’m most looking forward to.

Before we begin, a few notes:

  1. This list is based on what is scheduled to come out in 2018 as of this moment. Some of these may get delayed to 2019 for a variety of reasons, but as of now they are due for release next year.
  2. I’m only counting films that have a confirmed release for next year. There are plenty of films, especially smaller projects or awards contenders, that are in development with an aimed 2018 release. But if it doesn’t have a date on the calendar, it’s not getting counted.
  3. Films that will be released here in the UK in 2018 but were released in the US in 2017 don’t count, so don’t expect to see films like Coco, The Shape of Water or The Post on this list.
  4. This is not a prediction of what I think will be the best films of 2018; some of them I even have serious doubts about. These are merely the movies I am most excited and/or interested to see, and their quality will be judged when I have actually seen them.

And now, we may begin…

  1. Sicario 2: Soldado

Release Date: 29 June (US, UK)

I wouldn’t say Sicario was a film in desperate need of a sequel or spin-off, but after Blade Runner 2049 I’m more open to the idea. The absence of Denis Villeneuve and Emily Blunt is disappointing, but putting the spotlight on Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro is definitely the right decision; he was the most magnetic character in the original. I’m not really liking how uber-slick and action-focused the trailer seems to be making the film look, but here’s hoping this is just iffy marketing and the film upholds the sombre, grimy tone the original so effectively utilised.

  1. Widows

Release Date: 9 November (UK), 16 November (US)

Not much information on this one at the moment, but certainly seems like a change of direction for 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen. We’re already getting another female-driven heist movie in 2018 with Ocean’s 8, but this one is probably going to be more gritty than fun. I’m hoping for something like Triple 9, but with a little more style.

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  1. Cloverfield 3 (AKA God Particle)

Release Date: 2 February (US), 9 February (UK)

The supposed third instalment of the Cloverfield anthology series, this one has been pushed around the release calendar a lot, which does indicate a lot of post-production retooling which is rarely a good sign. Hopefully, a solid cast and premise, plus the Cloverfield name, can help push this one into the limelight.

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  1. The Kid Who Would Be King

Release Date: 28 September (US, UK)

It’s been far too long since Attack the Block director Joe Cornish took the helm. After his cult hit debut, he’s mainly been relegated to writing, but now he’s finally stepping back up for this family adventure film. It sounds kind of like A Kid in King Arthur’s Court in reverse, which isn’t the most unique of premises, but I’m confident Cornish has some clever twist on the concept that’ll make it another possible underdog smash.

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  1. Halloween

Release Date: 19 October (US, UK)

The Halloween franchise should really be laid to rest, and the constant reboots and retconning the mythology is getting really tired. That being said, this new venture may have what it takes. You’ve got David Gordon Green behind the camera, Danny McBride co-writing it with him, Jamie Lee Curtis back in the role that made her the star, and not only John Carpenter’s seal of approval but providing the score too? Don’t tell me that at least has you curious.

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  1. Alita: Battle Angel

Release Date: 20 July (US, UK)

A dream project of James Cameron for decades, the manga adaptation has instead been given to Robert Rodriguez whilst Cameron produces as he makes his Avatar sequels. After this year’s failures with Ghost in the Shell and Death Note, Alita stands as the last real chance for Western manga and anime adaptations. The decision to do Alita herself through motion capture and make her proportiante to an anime character is a move I have conflicted feelings about, but otherwise design-wise this movie looks really impressive. If it crashes and burns, at least it will do so in a brazen, Jupiter Ascending-level of boldness.

  1. Aquaman

Release Date: 21 December (US, UK)

Justice League may not have delivered exactly what all fans wanted, but it did at least pivot DC films in a more optimistic direction, and Aquaman is their first movie out of the gate with this new mindset. Jason Momoa’s portrayal of the King of Atlantis so far shows some promise, but having to hold his own is going to be the ultimate test as to whether this film will end up being a Wonder Woman or not. With someone as talented as James Wan behind the wheel, I’m hoping more for the former.

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  1. The New Mutants

Release Date: 11 April (UK), 13 April (US)

2018 is going to be a big year for the X-Men franchise, and kicking off the slate is probably the most daring of their entries this year. We haven’t seen a straight-up horror-superhero movie since the Blade movies, but this is going for more straight-up terror than guts and gore. Mixing that kind of horror with superpowers is going to be an interesting proposition, but there’s also the fear this could easily end up going the way of Fant4stic. Here’s hoping Fox learnt their lesson.

  1. First Man

Release Date: 12 October (US), 2 November (UK)

Damien Chazelle is coming off a high with La La Land, and now he’s reteaming with Ryan Gosling for a truly out-of-this-world biopic. It’s surprising that no one has made a big Neil Armstrong movie already, but better late than never and both Chazelle and Gosling are more than capable of pulling it off. Just have a little less mansplaining jazz this time, please? ryan_gosling_neil_armstrong_getty_-_h_split_2016

  1. Early Man

Release Date: 26 January (UK), 16 February (US)

Aardman films are always one to watch, but to see Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park back in the director’s chair makes this one especially interesting. Hopefully reusing some of their concepts for The Croods before DreamWorks took it away from them, this prehistoric stop-motion adventure flick can hopefully bring back a little more of that classic Aardman charm.

  1. Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2

Release Date: 21 November (US), 30 November (UK)

Of any Disney movie, Wreck-It Ralph cried out for a sequel the most. Six years later, fans are finally being granted that wish. Taking Ralph and his friends into the world of online gaming feels like a natural progression, and hopefully we’ll see a greater variety of worlds than the limited locales in the first film. Plus, it’s going to have pretty much every Disney Princess in it. That is a sight I cannot wait to behold.

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  1. Untitled Laika Film

Release Date: May 18 (US), TBA (UK)

I literally don’t know anything about this movie. But it’s a Laika movie, and that’s all I need to know to be excited about it. If you aren’t hyped too, you should be. Next!

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  1. A Wrinkle in Time

Release Date: 9 March (US), 23 March (UK)

Ava DuVernay is finally being given her big-budget shot with this adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel, and from everything so far it looks like she’s knocked it out of the park. Taking a novel way ahead of its time and updating it further with an eye of diversity is exactly the kind of family movie we need right now, and even though this is a big step up from DuVernay’s other work I trust she is more than capable of helming this ship.

  1. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Release Date: 6 July (US), 3 August (UK)

Ant-Man was a surprisingly decent excursion for Marvel from the usual world-ending stakes, and now director Peyton Reed has full control over the sequel after having to reassemble the remains of Edgar Wright’s vision last time around. Bringing Wasp into the fold is a natural progression and should bring more female prominence to a series severely lacking it, and here’s hoping the size-bending action sequences are taken to the next level of insanity and hilarity.

  1. Mission: Impossible VI

Release Date: 27 July (US, UK)

The movie we all have to blame for Henry Cavill’s CGI upper lip in Justice League, this sixth instalment in the Tom Cruise action franchise is the first to be helmed by a returning director: Christopher McQuarrie returns from Rogue Nation to pick up the story where he left off. Not much is known right now, but insane stunts and thrilling chases are sure to be abound. The only thing we know for sure is this: it looks like Cruise has short hair in this one, breaking the long/short switching game between previous instalments.

  1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Release Date: 14 December (US, UK)

Spider-Man: Homecoming only teased at the existence of Miles Morales in the MCU, but this animated feature will put the new wall-crawler in the spotlight for the first time in cinematic history. The film is still something of an enigma, but with Lord & Miller involved with the screenplay, a bold artistic design to the animation, and a talented voice cast including Shameik Moore and Mahershala Ali on board, there’s no reason not to be intrigued by this side venture from Sony Animation. I’m certainly more excited for this than whatever that Venom movie they’re making is.

  1. Pacific Rim: Uprising

Release Date: 23 March (US, UK)

The first Pacific Rim was a great movie that ultimately failed to find a big enough audience, but the fans have been vocal enough to keep support for a sequel alive. After a few false starts, we’re finally getting what we asked for in a bigger and brighter follow-up. Sure, the lack of Guillermo del Toro at the helm is a little disappointing, but John Boyega already looks like a step-up in protagonist from Charlie Hunnam, and what we’ve seen of the Jaeger vs. Kaiju fights seem to be in line with what everyone wanted from the first film. Let’s just hope the story can keep all the underlying nuance of the first and not devolve into just the mindless action most audiences took away from the original.

  1. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Release Date: 25 May (US, UK)

The only movie that arguably had a more troubled production history than Justice League in recent memory, this spin-off film focused on the young exploits of a certain intergalactic smuggler faced a massive overhaul with the firing of directors Phil Lord & Christopher Miller. With veteran Ron Howard now captain of the ship, the fate of this film is certainly up in the air, but this fan is hoping they can salvage the best elements of Lord & Miller’s work and deliver a coherent movie Star Wars fans can be proud of. With characters this iconic and a cast this talented, it’s the least they deserve.

  1. Annihilation

Release Date: 23 February (US, UK)

All I had to know was that this is Alex Garland’s new film, and it was immediately guaranteed a top ten spot. The trailer only heightens my anticipation. After an amazing directorial debut with Ex Machina, seeing the veteran scribe take his vision of sci-fi to an even greater scale is a natural evolution. Featuring an all-star cast including Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tessa Thompson, this looks like it could be Garland’s answer to Arrival.

  1. Black Panther

Release Date: 12 February (UK), 16 February (US)

It’s been a long time coming, so to finally see a major superhero movie with a predominantly non-white cast (and such prestigious ones as that) on the immediate horizon is incredibly reassuring; Wonder Woman proved the genre doesn’t have to be dominated by straight white guys, and this is the next natural step. Ryan Coogler looks like he’s adjusted to blockbuster filmmaking fast after Fruitvale Station and Creed, and though the film’s plot does already seem to be following MCU formula already (do we really need another villain who is just an inverse of the hero?), the visuals do a lot to make this one to stand out from its forebearers.

  1. The Predator

Release Date: 3 August (US, UK)

A new Predator movie directed by Shane Black? Sign me up now! This sequel brings cinema’s greatest extraterrestrial hunter to the suburbs against a team of Marines; it’s like a mash-up of elements from all three previous movies, and already has confirmed connections to the previous films (Jake Busey is playing the son of his dad’s character from Predator 2!). Black already has history with the franchise, having acted in the first film as Hawkins, and so to see him tackle the fourth instalment with old buddy Fred Dekker seems like a perfect way to bring the series full circle. And c’mon, seeing a Predator movie with Black’s style and sense of humour is a mix that has so much promise!

  1. Untitled Deadpool Sequel

Release Date: 1 June (US, UK)

The first Deadpool bucked all doubts and ended up becoming a key pop culture defining film of 2016, and now the sequel looks set to mine where they could not before. Bringing Cable into the mix was always a certainty, but to nab Josh Brolin for the role whilst he’s still Thanos in the MCU was a bold but perfect move. It’s sad that Tim Miller parted ways with the project, but Atomic Blonde helmer David Leitch seems to have a handle on things and I’m sure Ryan Reynolds’ charisma will be more than enough to power this highly-anticipated sequel into the good books.

  1. Incredibles 2

Release Date: 15 June (US), 13 July (UK)

The only sequel every Pixar fan can agree needed to happen is finally happening; it’s just sad we had to wait through two Cars movies and Finding Dory just to get here. With Brad Bird back at the helm and all the core characters returning in a story that picks up right where the original left off, The Incredibles 2 has incredibly high expectations to live up to. If this was something that was only thrown together recently without Bird’s involvement, I’d be far less excited. But not only is Bird back, but it’s clear he’s been waiting this long because he wanted to do it right. Here’s hoping the wait will be worth it.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War

Release Date: 27 April (UK), 4 May (US)

Ten years of filmmaking have been leading to this moment. So many blockbusters later, many of which seemed like risks at the time, and now we are here at the end of an era for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the beginnings of a new one. To see characters from all across the series, even as far-reaching as the Guardians of the Galaxy, finally come together to fight the baddie first teased at the end of The Avengers is a cinematic event that rivals the first time Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assembled in 2012. Hopefully, not only will this film bring a close to so many story threads and set the series in a bold new direction, but maybe we’ll finally see some major ramifications to the universe moving forward. I mean, could we finally see a major character die? It’s morbid to think, but I kind of hope they bite the bullet and just do it already.

  1. Ready Player One

Release Date: 30 March (US, UK)

I am a massive fan of Ernest Cline’s ode to geekdom in novel form; if you at all consider yourself a nerd and haven’t read it, fix that quickly. With such a reverence to 80s pop culture, to see a key player in creating much of what we have nostalgia for in that decade make the film itself is a move that could go either way. Will Steven Spielberg’s lack of nostalgia goggles for an era he helped define be a benefit or a hindrance? I honestly don’t know, but I certainly know I can’t wait to find out. With properties like Stranger Things and It proving so popular recently, Ready Player One couldn’t come out at a better time and, if it proves to be a success, will maybe spur new life into some of the more obscure properties it highlights.

SUMMER MOVIE SEASON 2017 WRAP-UP

This has been an interesting summer movie season, filled with tremendous highs and spectacular lows. I’ve been pretty busy over the past few months, so I haven’t been able to review as many films as I would have liked, but I certainly saw about as many as usual. So, whether you can still catch some of these in theatres or snap them up on home viewing (or avoid all together in certain cases), here is a sum-up of every film I saw this summer that I didn’t get a chance to review in full.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Probably Guy Ritchie’s worst film to date, this tiresome and dull reinterpretation of the King Arthur myth is buried under layers of horribly anachronistic style and Charlie Hunnam’s thoroughly unlikable turn as Arthur. It makes the 2004 Antoine Fuqua version look like a masterpiece in comparison. 2.5/10

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Colossal

This demented and inventive fantasy comedy from Nacho Vigolando combines strong humour with strong themes of abusive relationships and dependency. Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudiekis wonderfully break their usual character types and provide performances that are just as genuine as they are funny. 8/10

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The Book of Henry

Probably the biggest WTF movie of the summer, this bizarre and horrendously misjudged combination of Spielberg whimsy and harsh thriller is a thoroughly perplexing watch. The strong performances and Colin Trevorrow’s direction carry it partway, but the material is so inherently flawed that even they can’t save it. 4/10

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Okja

Whilst certainly not Bong Joon-ho’s best work, this peculiar mix of corporate satire and Studio Ghibli is a sweet and thoroughly engaging watch. The CGI work is iffy at times and some of the performances come off as too exaggerated (Jake Gyllenhaal is particularly OTT), but the film’s heart is strong and does strike a good balance between being entertaining and informative. 7/10

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The Circle

Thrown out onto Netflix UK after a disastrous US theatrical release, The Circle posits an interesting and timely premise about identity and privacy in the social media age, but shows no real insight on the subject. A fantastic cast is wasted on bland and poorly developed characters, and the conclusion fails to give us the necessary details of its important ramifications. 3/10

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The House

Though it does fall flat compared to many of their great comedies, Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler’s new casino-based comedy has just about enough worthwhile gags to hold your attention. The story is a bit too loose and the jokes are clearly just reams of improv, but the genuinely sweet relationship between our leads and their daughter, along with strong supporting turns from Jason Mantzoukas and Nick Kroll, just about keep the whole enterprise from collapsing in on itself. 6/10

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It Comes at Night

A grim and haunting rural thriller, It Comes at Night combines the post-apocalyptic interpersonal conflict of the late George Romero with haunting imagery and an unrelenting sense of fear. Probably the closest we’ll ever get to a good film adaptation of The Last of Us. 8/10

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Cars 3

Though this latest effort from Pixar does fall short of our usual expectations of the studio, Cars 3 is still a radical improvement over its predecessor and brings the franchise back to its roots. The story and characters are fairly stock and predictable, but the new flairs it adds are much welcomed and give its final moments something approaching brilliant. 6.5/10

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Dunkirk

A film that is equally both a throwback to the war films of old and the direct antithesis of those very movies, Dunkirk depicts World War II with barely an ounce of jingoism for maximum emotional effect. Its unique approach to structure and spectacular visuals and sound make this an experience that must be seen in theatres. 8.5/10

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Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

As an adaptation of the Dav Pilkey books, Captain Underpants adapts the style and spirit of the series perfectly in animated form. The absent-minded plot and paper-thin themes do often make the film feel more like several episodes of a cartoon show stuck together rather than a feature film, but the film makes good use of the source material’s inherently juvenile humour, all delivered by a solid voice cast including Ed Helms and Nick Kroll. 6.5/10

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The Big Sick

It may seem like an incredibly simple romantic comedy on paper, but The Big Sick succeeds by avoiding all the usual rom com traps and hones in on the emotional content. Kumail Nanjiani finally proves himself as a strong comedic lead, and the supporting performances from Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are equally hilarious and touching. Go see this at your earliest convenience! 10/10!

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

This spiritual sequel to The Fifth Element may be bloated and highly unfocused, but it compensates for it with a relentless sense of imagination and childlike wonder. The amount of exposition required to tell this simple story is almost intolerable, but for every drab scene of dialogue there is a fantastic action sequence or spectacular piece of design to suck you back in. Regardless, it’s still the best movie Luc Besson has directed since The Fifth Element. 7/10

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Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde is certainly more than just John Wick in high heels, but for what it adds in depth it loses in fun. The fight choreography is some of the best of the year, but the story is overcomplicated and the story world lacks flair beyond its 1980s aesthetic. Still, a thoroughly enjoyable watch that provides faith that Deadpool 2 is in solid hands with director David Leitch. 7.5/10

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Annabelle: Creation

After the incredibly underwhelming first film, no one would expect this prequel-to-a-prequel to be anything worthwhile, but Annabelle: Creation is a genuinely solid little horror movie. It fixes the problems of its predecessor without making the first film irrelevant, and the film combines old-school scares with new-school techniques to create a movie far better than it has any right to be. 7.5/10

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Silly but harmless buddy action movie that wishes it was as witty as a Shane Black script. The action is standard and the plot predictable, but Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson’s comedic chemistry, along with a surprisingly funny supporting turn from Salma Hayek, stops it from ever becoming boring. 6.5/10

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The Dark Tower

A mundane and trite action-fantasy film that simplifies Stephen King’s work down to the bare minimum and ends up feeling more like yet another bad YA adaptation rather than a grand fantasy epic. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are trying their best, but beyond some cute references to King’s previous works there’s practically nothing here you haven’t seen before. 5/10

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Detroit

Though not as great as Kathryn Bigelow’s recent war stories, this is a gut-punching and extremely relevant story that needed to be told. The documentary-style cinematography really plants you in the drama, and the performances from Will Poulter and Algee Smith are spot-on. 8/10

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Death Note

Probably the best western live-action manga adaptation ever, but that’s not saying much. Adam Wingard’s stylish direction and the solid casting do make it more than watchable, but the story and pacing are hampered by an overstuffed plot that will confuse newcomers and anger fans. Worth watching for the Final Destination-like kills, but is unlikely to stay in your mind for long. 5.5/10

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Logan Lucky

Steven Soderbergh’s return to filmmaking is a solid reinvention of the heist movie he helped re-establish with his Ocean’s trilogy. A witty script and fantastic performances, particularly from a nearly-unrecognisable Daniel Craig, make this more than just another crime caper. 8.5/10

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American Made

Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman tell an interesting true story that plays like Goodfellas mixed with Top Gun, packed with some good humour and insight into American intelligence agencies, but it fails to dig as deep into its characters and story as it could have. 7.5/10

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MY TOP 25 FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2016

Like a lot of other things these past twelve months, 2016 in film wasn’t at its greatest. It was a year of disappointments and mediocrity for the most part, and then a lot of the really great films didn’t find an audience and died at the box office. But now’s a chance to redeem the year. As I traditionally do, collected here are all my favourite films from the past twelve months, ordered by how much I personally enjoyed them. This isn’t me telling you which films are technically best or did the most to further the craft. This is me relaying to you which films impacted me the most, and why I think you should give them a watch if you haven’t already. So, without further preamble, let’s get started!

Honourable Mentions

Everybody Wants Some!!

Eye in the Sky

Deepwater Horizon

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25. The Witch

A surreal and wholly original horror film, The Witch may not be to everyone’s taste but, if you like your scares subtle and haunting rather big and gory, then it’s definetely one to check out. The film’s grim and beleaguered atmosphere, combined with the strict attention to historical detail, creates an distinctively uncomfortable environment and makes you question whether these horrid events are feats of the supernatural or just paranoid insanity. Anchoring the film is the tremendous lead performance by Anya Taylor-Joy, and if this and Split are any indication then we may have a new scream queen for the ages on our hands.

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24. The Conjuring 2

Making an effective horror sequel is damn tricky, but James Wan has managed to do just that with The Conjuring 2. In many ways it is the same film as its predecessor, but by changing up enough like the setting, the character dynamics, and the nature of the haunting, it balances that line between being an original film and connecting itself back to the first movie just right. The scares are solidly crafted, aided by expert cinematography for the right amount of tense atmosphere, but the characters are detailed and likable too; when’s the last time you could say that about a horror movie? If Wan and company plan to keep going with the adventures of the Warrens, I’m all for it.

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23. Hell or High Water

Probably the best contemporary Western of its kind since No Country for Old Men, Hell or High Water takes a fascinating look at oft-forgotten Middle America and explores the desperation measures two brothers will take to ensure their family’s future. Chris Pine and Ben Foster give career-best performances as our bank robbers out to fight the system, and Jeff Bridges’ role as a sort-of mash-up between Rooster Cogburn and Samuel Gerard makes for a compelling and sympathetic opposing force. It’s a film that feels more necessary than ever in our current financial state, and will maybe even make you understand why that part of the world is as bitter towards the coastal states as they are.

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22. The Jungle Book

Disney’s experiment of remaking their classic animation library into live-action adventures not only finally produced a genuinely good movie, but one that is perhaps even better than the film that inspired it. The Jungle Book is a marvellous movie that can be appreciated purely for its technical excellence in combing live action with CGI, perhaps even surpassing Avatar in terms of seamlessness, but it also manages to make a coherent story out of what used to be a series of vignettes. Neel Sethi is an amazing discovery as our lead Baloo, and the fantastic supporting cast from Bill Murray and Ben Kingsley to Idris Elba and Christopher Walken are equally excellent. Now it’s all up to Beauty and the Beast to prove whether this was just a fluke or a new beginning for this series of sorts.

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21. Sausage Party

Seth Rogen and company take a hilarious stab at parodying the Disney/Pixar classics in this raunchy but surprisingly deep animated comedy. The best film of its kind since Team America: World Police, Sausage Party doesn’t pull any punches with its humour and manages to make some valid points about religious belief and the hard choice between the easy lie and the harsh truth. The animation itself may not be the most polished but its comedic ambitions more than make up for it, and that penultimate scene would easily be the most graphic thing ever put on cinema screens if it weren’t all just a bunch of cartoon food.

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20. Star Trek Beyond

Learning from all the missteps of Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond tells a new and exciting tale for the crew of the Enterprise that finally manages to find the perfect balance between classic Trek social commentary and new-school action blockbuster. Justin Lin injects the film with his Fast & Furious flavour without at all diluting the traditional sci-fi experience, and the entire returning crew is as fantastic as ever along with exciting newcomers like Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella. It’s fun, it’s thought-provoking, and it’s a fitting tribute to both the entire series for its 50th anniversary and to the late Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.

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19. Manchester by the Sea

One of the more simple and authentic stories on this list, Manchester by the Sea is a film purely about human drama and it wrings out every possible ounce it can. Casey Affleck has never been better as a dangerously depressed man placed in the last position he wants to be in, but he’s also ably supported by a star-making turn from Lucas Hedges and a small but powerful turn by Michelle Williams. It’s a relatable and sombre tale about loss and rebuilding that doesn’t necessarily agree with the notion that all wounds heal, but even amidst the bleakest darkness lies a glimmer of light.

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18. Doctor Strange

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand into more of its crazier dimensions, and Doctor Strange managed to make all of its mystical madness accessible whilst delivering one of best standalone stories in the franchise thus far. The trippy visuals alone make it one of the most spectacular cinema experiences of the year, perfectly capturing the psychedelic artwork of co-creator Steve Ditko, but it was also strengthened by a simple but well-crafted story and a stellar cast led by a wonderfully arrogant turn by Benedict Cumberbatch. After now introducing magic into this series, how much weirder can the Marvel movies get? Oh, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has Kurt Russell playing a literal planet? OK, it can get weirder!

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17. Silence

Martin Scorsese moves out of his typical crime tales and gives us this harrowing tale more in the vein of his Kundun or The Last Temptation of Christ. Silence is a bold and gut-wrenching look at how far one man can take his dedication to his faith, showing both the sacrifices that must be made but also the hope it brings. It doesn’t paint either side in clear colours, and by the end you may find yourself rooting for the Japanese just so the torment can stop. With both this and a certain other film later on this list, Andrew Garfield reaffirms his place as an actor to be taken seriously with his haunting performance, and the supporting turns from Adam Driver and Liam Neeson help strengthen what is already a solid core. It’s not for everyone and I doubt I’ll see it again, but the one experience alone will last me a lifetime of thought.

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16. Lion

Lion may essentially be the longest and most brilliant advertisement for Google Earth ever, but it also tells a heartfelt and inspiring story about an impossible search. Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman all give fantastic performances, but it is newcomer Sunny Pawar who shines brightest as the young Saroo who loses his family in unbelievable fashion. It’s a beautiful film that captures the feel of India similarly to Slumdog Millionaire but with a little less whimsy, and the final moments alone make the entire journey so worth it.

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15. Hidden Figures

An uplifting and inspiring true story finally brought to the forefront, Hidden Figures would have been fascinating if it had focused on the scientists behind the Space Race alone, but making it about oft-overlooked figures like Katharine G. Johnson and Dorothy Vaughn makes it all the more important. Taraji P. Henson provides a wonderful and overlooked lead performance as Johnson, alongside the equally talented Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as Vaughn and Mary Jackson respectively. The movie drives home an important message about the necessity of equality for humanity to reach its peak, and finally gives these unsung heroes the respect they deserve.

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14. La La Land

Whilst not as strikingly brilliant as his debut feature Whiplash, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is a beautiful and welcome homage to the Hollywood musicals of old that also modernises them for the cynical age we now live in. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling perfectly embody the chemistry of the classic on-screen couples but in a far more honest light, focusing more on the struggle and torment of following your dreams than the glamour of making it. It finds that rare balance between being nostalgic and realistic, crafting a film that is the cinematic definition of bittersweet but in a good way.

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13. Kubo and the Two Strings

Laika may continue to be unappreciated by modern audiences, but that doesn’t mean their achievements in animation should go unnoticed. Kubo and the Two Strings is a beautiful piece of filmmaking that combines all the elements of great animation, both storytelling and production-wise, to craft what may be the company’s most spectacular feat yet. The art style alone is enough to suck you into the world, but the endearing characters and sweet messages about the power of compassion and memory make it so much more than just an impressive feat of animation. If you haven’t seen it yet, pick it up and make sure this one doesn’t become forgotten.

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12. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One proves Star Wars has legs outside of the core saga films, meaning we are bound to get more and more trips to the galaxy far, far away in the near future. Taking a distinctly different approach to the universe whilst still remaining quintessentially Star Wars, this is the first film in the franchise that really feels like it was made for adult fans, but the charm and humour of the series is there just enough for the young ones; see, George, this is how you do it! It doesn’t quite have the heart and character of the saga films, but it more than makes up for that with some of the best action sequences the series has ever offered and fan service done the right way. If all future spin-offs can be at least this good, I’m happy for as much Star Wars as they can manage.

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11. The Nice Guys

Shane Black. Need I say more? The Nice Guys is the summation of every achievement in Black’s career, sticking to his formula dating way back to his origins creating Lethal Weapon but infuses it with both a modern filmmaking touch and a 1970s sheen of neon and excess. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are a duo worthy of the writer/director’s incredible legacy of double acts, bouncing off each other dramatically as well as comically, but newcomer Angourie Rice often steals the show from her elders in one of the best child performances in recent memory. But more than anything, The Nice Guys is just a lot of fun, and if you missed it in theatres then there is no better time to catch up than now.

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10. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Taika Waititi’s comedic tale of a young delinquent and his foster father surviving in the wilderness of New Zealand is a film that could have only come from such a unique and talented voice. Julian Dennison is a revelation as the rough but lovable Ricky, and Sam Neill’s performance as his coarse guardian Hector is easily the best he’s given in years. It has a scale and confidence only hinted at in Waititi’s earlier films, as the film expands from a small-scale story to what seems like a country-wide manhunt; comedies rarely ever attempt this absurd level of scale anymore. It’s a gem I hope more people will discover over the years, and I can’t wait to see what Waititi can bring to Thor: Ragnarok this autumn.

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9. Zootopia

Disney has been pushing back against their clichés in their recent animated efforts but Zootopia (or Zootropolis, whatever you want to call it) is the first to go beyond that and challenge relevant real-world problems instead of their own antiquated logic. What could have been a safe family picture gradually reveals itself as a call for socio-political re-evaluation; a message of a brighter future for kids to aspire to and adults to reflect on. The year that followed from this film only reaffirmed how much this is a real issue, but that only makes the film’s themes even stronger. On top of being funny, creative and heart-warming, Zootopia is an animated film that means something beyond just entertainment, and it’s one I can see myself revisiting over and over again.

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8. Don’t Breathe

The most thrilling and gut-wrenching film of its kind since Hard Candy, Don’t Breathe shows how much promise Fede Alvarez has as a director when not shackled to the expectations of remaking Evil Dead. It’s an incredibly simple film but executed with such precision and grit; it’s like a Hitchcock or De Palma film but made with the aesthetics of early Tobe Hooper. Jane Levy cements her status as a modern scream queen, and Stephen Lang’s performance as The Blind Man quickly ranks him among the best horror villains in recent cinema. Why? Because he seems all too real. 2016 wasn’t a great year for film in general, but it was pretty good for horror and Don’t Breathe easily takes the crown amongst a crop of worthy contenders.

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7. Captain America: Civil War

The Captain America films just keep getting better and Civil War is not only the finest of that sub-series so far but also one of Marvel’s best movies to date. Bringing together so many corners of the universe and yet still managing to make it a tight, character-focused story is incredibly impressive, and the film continues The Winter Soldier’s political angle with interesting contemplations on government interference in foreign conflicts, the use of emergency powers, and moral duty versus need. The introductions of Black Panther and the new-and-improved Spider-Man add whole new dimensions to the franchise going forward, and it ends on a note that once again leaves the rest of the MCU in an uncertain place. Avengers: Infinity War is going to have to try its damndest to top this, but in the hands of the Russo brothers I have all the confidence I can give.

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6. Hacksaw Ridge

To quote South Park, “Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but the son-of-a-bitch knows story structure!” Gibson returns to the director’s chair in what is undoubtedly a Mel Gibson film through-and-through, but one that is as heartfelt and inspiring as it is violent and harrowing. This is a classic, beautifully told story of a conscientious objector holding onto his values in the face of insurmountable odds, and the nightmarish depictions of war only Gibson could provide drive home the man’s struggle. Andrew Garfield delivers a career-best performance as Desmond Doss, holding the film on his optimistic shoulders throughout every grisly but engrossing action sequence, as well as some surprisingly strong supporting performances from the likes of Vince Vaughn, Teresa Palmer and Hugo Weaving. This is a movie so good, it makes Sam Worthington seem compelling; now that’s an impressive feat!

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5. Moonlight

It’s hard to say a lot about Moonlight. It’s just one of those movies you have to experience to really understand the full impact. Possibly the most daring and imperative coming-of-age tale in decades, Moonlight shines a spotlight on the ugly sides of adolescence and paints a picture of a boy struggling with intense pain, confusion and denial. The lead performances of our protagonist over the years by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes are all uniformly excellent, but the film is truly made powerful by the supporting turns by Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, along with the beautiful direction courtesy of Barry Jenkins. This isn’t just another self-important drama. This is era-defining cinema at its finest.

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4. Arrival

Prisoners. Enemy. Sicario. With a filmography like that, was there any doubt that Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival would be anything less than spectacular? This exploration into the nature of communication, co-operation and the concept of time is a thought-provoking and challenging experience that could not have been released at a more relevant time. Amy Adams, who was robbed of an Oscar nomination in my opinion, takes the lead in perhaps her finest performance to date, but ultimately this is Villeneuve’s film and he imbues it with so much atmosphere and tension that there is never a dull moment. That’s impressive for a movie mostly consisting of scientists communicating with aliens via flash cards and Rorschach blots.

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3. Deadpool

Easily the film with the most pop culture impact of the year, Deadpool is not only a comic book fan’s wet dream come true but also one of the most original and out-there comedies of the decade. Ryan Reynolds all but vaporises our collective memories of the character’s horrendous portrayal in X-Men Origins: Wolverine within the opening credits, and the film that follows is a gag-a-minute explosion fest that lampoons the X-Men franchise, modern superhero films, and generally any target it can crack out a good joke about. But what ultimately makes Deadpool more than just a fun time is that it actually has a heart of gold underneath, with all the humour built around a bizarre but touching romance about unconditional love. I doubt any sequels will be able to top the original’s excellence, but I dare them to try.

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2. Your Name

The body swap movie is hardly a new concept, but usually it’s used simply for farce. Your Name at first may just seem like a really good version of that tried-and-true formula, but give it a while and you’ll soon discover it is so much more. An examination of cultural divide, gender stereotypes and a romance that breaks the boundaries of time and space, Your Name is that rare movie that makes you experience every emotion to its fullest during its running time. Makoto Shinkai now stands alongside Mamoru Hosoda as a potential inheritor to Miyazaki’s throne as king of anime, and it’s all thanks to this poignant, beautiful film. Just please, for the love of everything, make sure you watch the Japanese dub! You’ll thank me later.

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1. Sing Street

Sing Street may not be the most socially relevant or groundbreaking film of the year, but it’s got bucket loads of the one thing we all need right now: optimism. A 1980s coming-of-age rock ‘n roll fable from Once and Begin Again director John Carney, there is simply no other movie this year that uplifted me more than this charming and relatable tale of young love and dreams. The performances are all-around fantastic, particularly from Jack Reynor as our protagonist’s burnout of a brother and Lucy Boynton as the mythical girl of desire, but what ultimately seals the deal is the music. Not only are the period soundtrack choices excellent, the original music our eponymous band play are as catchy and upbeat as any 80s cheese classic; I rushed out and bought the album straight after seeing it. The film is sitting on Netflix right now, so you have absolutely no excuse to miss this. If you haven’t already, go watch Sing Street and have yourself one heck of a good time.

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