Jan. 12th, 2019

defrog: (Default)
Because you can’t possibly have enough “Best Of The Year” lists on the Internet.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: If yr favorite movie of 2018 isn’t here, it’s likely because (1) I didn’t get a chance to see it, (2) it hasn’t been released in Hong Kong yet, or (3) I did see it but didn’t like it as much as you did. Also, if some of these seem kind of old, it’s because their release date was 2017 for yr country, but 2018 for Hong Kong. See?


1. The Shape of Water
In which Guillermo del Toro basically reimagines Creature From The Black Lagoon as a love story, in which the creature is held in a secret govt lab for cruel experiments, where mute cleaning woman Elisa bonds with him. It’s as weird and tragic as you’d expect, and it’s a nice twist on a classic horror movie.

2. 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
I went in not really knowing much about it apart from the cast and the director – both of which were enough to convince me to see it. I really enjoyed Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths, and any film with Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell seems like a good bet. It was – it’s a powerful story about what happens when the rage of loss is compounded by injustice, and the depths people sink to when desperation sets in.

3. Muppet Guys Talking
This Frank Oz documentary was originally filmed in 2012, and Oz sat on the footage for years before finally having the time to edit it down to a feature-length doc. The title says it all – it’s mainly five Muppet performers (Oz, Jerry Nelson, Fran Brill, Dave Goelz and Bill Barretta) sitting in a room talking about Muppet history, the characters they played, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, and Jim Henson. It’s a simple concept, and it works wonderfully – all five performers are good storytellers and have plenty of great anecdotes to share. Essential for anyone who’s a Muppet fan.

4. Black Panther
I only saw a couple of MCU films last year (Infinity War was not one of them because I’ve been assured it’s really for fans only, a.k.a. people who have seen all the MCU films and remember every detail about them), but Black Panther was by far the best of the bunch for me for a couple of reasons: (1) it’s a character I’m not as familiar with, compared to Captain America, Hulk Iron Man, etc, so it offered something different, and (2) the rich worldbuilding of Wakanda, and reasonably well-developed characters (by MCU standards, anyway), to include the villain, Killmonger. Like with all MCU films, the rollercoaster CGI action is overdone, but that’s the price of admission.

5. All The Money In The World
The strange but true tale of the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III, which I only tried because Ridley Scott is usually a dependable director and he’s good at this kind of film. Of course the race to find Paul and secure his release is interesting, but the film also succeeds as a family drama and an indictment of greed so engrained that it will drive people to put money before family. It’s flawed in places, and of course they made up some of it. But I’ve learned to expect that with “true” stories. DISCLAIMER: It was only after seeing it that I found out this was the film where Kevin Spacey was edited out and replaced by Christopher Plummer. All I’ll say is that it looked seamless to me – I’d never have guessed if TwitterBook hadn’t told me.

6. Isle Of Dogs
I’ve said before Wes Anderson is one of those directors you either like or you don’t, and this doesn’t change that. This animated homage to Japanese cinema is one of his better films – not quite as good as Fantastic Mr Fox, mainly because the characterization isn't as strong, due to it being more of an ensemble cast. But it’s full of Anderson’s usual dark humor and visual panache.

7. Bohemian Rhapsody
Oh, YOU know. And I have to say that as flawed as it is – and it is flawed, from the standard dialogue and rock’n’roll clichés to the unnecessary revisionist history (“Fat Bottomed Girls” coming out in 1974, Freddie Mercury adopting his Tom From Finland look in the late 70s, etc) – I liked it. I think it’s partly because the music is great, the cast (not just Rami Malek, but everyone) really look and act like the band, and I’ve read interviews with Brian May who says the film isn’t meant to be real life but a “painting” of Freddie, so I figure if he’s okay with it, why should I complain? That said, I maintain that if you’re going to call the film Bohemian Rhapsody, there should be at least one sequence in the film where they play the whole song through in its entirety.

8. Early Man
The latest animated film from Nick Park. I think I would have liked this less if I’d seen any trailers for it – it’s more fun to watch it unexpectedly go from a prehistoric comedy to a satire of English football. Once it does, it’s pretty predictable, and there are moments where I felt they could have done a little more with the material. But it’s still a goofy, fun and enjoyable film.

9. Incredibles 2
I don’t think we really needed an Incredibles sequel, but we got one anyway, and it’s pretty good for what it is, maintaining more or less the quality level of the first one, as well as the themes of how vigilante superheroes don’t quite fit into a world of real-world laws and regulations, and the challenges of raising kids with superpowers. Anyway, it’s one of the better superhero movies on 2018.

10. Solo: A Star Wars Story
I have so much to say about this, and you can read it all here. For the capsule review, I’ll just say that as a straight-up big-budget space-adventure film, it’s actually pretty good fun. As a Star Wars film, it’s predictable as far as the established characters are concerned (Solo, Chewbacca and Lando), and it doesn't really add much to the characters that we didn’t already know. Also, I’m one of those fans who feels that Han Solo didn’t need an origin story – part of Solo’s appeal has always been his braggadocio and exaggerating his own accomplishments, and the references to the Kessel Run work better when you don’t know how he did it.


Ant-Man and The Wasp
The other decent MCU film of 2018, in which Ant-Man is under house arrest and estranged from the Pyms because of some other MCU film I couldn’t remember, but that changes when it turns out that during the first film he somehow became quantumly entangled with the original Wasp, who is believed lost in the sub-atomic realm. The Ant-Man films get by mainly on having their own specific sense of humor (Paul Rudd and Michael Pena are still great) and the writers having fun with the concept of being able to shrink and enlarge objects and people at will. This one also has a more interesting villain with Ghost.

The Crimes That Bind
This Japanese film is based on the last instalment of the Detective Kaga novels by Keigo Higashino. It’s also the last of the film/TV franchise based on those novels. I haven’t watched those, but I have read one of the novels, and I do like lead actor Hiroshi Abe (who has played Kaga before and does so here), so I gave this a shot. The story involves Kaga helping a young police detective investigate the death of a woman in Shiga in part because he suspects the case has a connection to the unsolved mystery of his own mother’s death 16 years earlier in the same town. Like a lot of Japanese murder mysteries, the truth is both insanely convoluted and melodramatic, and the film gets by mainly by good performances from Abe and Nanako Matsuhima (as a theatre owner who was the last person to see the victim alive).

Mission Impossible: Fallout
By now the M:I franchise template is pretty solid – insane action sequences, insane technology, insane plot twists, insane interdepartmental squabbles, and insane Tom Cruise putting stuntmen out of work. And that’s okay, since the franchise tends to work best when the writers and director embrace the utter insanity of the premise, take the “impossible” part literally and run with it. Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie does all of that and more. This time out, Ethan Hunt is out to recover three stolen plutonium MacGuffins that a terrorist group called The Apostles (formed from the remains of The Syndicate, which Hunt defeated in the previous film) are attempting to acquire. Insanity ensues.

A Korean monster movie with a slight twist in that it’s a period piece, taking place in the 15th century during the Joseon era. Following reports of a giant monster killing villagers and spreading a plague, King Jungjong asks disgraced general Yun Kyum to investigate whether the “monstrum” is real or a rumor spread by his political enemies to undermine his leadership and stage a coup. It’s a great set-up for what turns out to be a predictable story with average CG and a cop-out ending, and I think director Huh Jong-ho could have waited longer to reveal the truth behind the monstrum. But for all its flaws, I found it interesting.


The Meg
Actually, the film overall was better than I expected – not great, but I was entertained. My main disappointment is that Jason Statham didn’t kill the megalodon by kicking its head off.


A Wrinkle In Time

My Twitter feed was full of people who loved this live-action version of the classic novel (which was one of my junior-high reading staples), and … well, it didn’t work for me. I thought it just tried too hard to be Amazing (cue “this is Amazing” reaction shots from all the characters every time they arrived at a new planet), the dialogue just doesn't flow at all, and the three Mrs Ws are kind of annoying. And while I understand why Ava DuVerny and the writers stripped out the Christian elements of the book, those elements were also crucial to explaining more or less what is going on and why, and what the Mrs Ws have to do with anything – without that context (or a workable replacement), the result is a generic good vs evil arc with no good explanation as to who the Mrs Ws are and why it’s up to the Murry children to fight IT to save their dad.


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

This is the direct sequel to Jurassic World, both in terms of bringing back Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Blue The Velociraptor, and in terms of the fact that the whole story depends on just about everyone besides them being a complete and utter idiot with absolutely no memory of anything that happened in the previous films. The “save the dinos” angle is interesting in that it echoes the original film’s point that the regenerated dinosaurs are in a sense victims of man’s arrogance, but the bad guy plot is beyond ludicrous and the set-up for the next film isn't that convincing.

The balcony is closed,

This is dF


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