While 2018 might have been our most active year for output it is incredibly difficult to delegate the time to review every film we saw. Many excellent films slipped through our hands and a couple of stinkers worth mentioning did too. To make somewhat amends and clear our conscience I have prepared a short review for a number of movies below which I felt worth mentioning.
Also, we are well aware that a lot of these films are Netflix exclusives which we would like to clarify is not intentional as we are big supporters of the streaming giant and how it brings competition to film. Also, cinemas are really expensive and people in general suck so we fully support on the couch viewing!!
Needless to say but after seeing Gareth Evans martial arts/action masterpiece, ‘The Raid’, I was guaranteed to be in line for any of his future projects. So after it was announced he was making his first feature film in a western country for Netflix starring one of my favourite actors, Dan Stevens, I was ecstatic. Every development of this film had me more excited especially that Evans was tackling the horror genre for the first time with a full-length film (he directed the amazing segment ‘Safe Haven’ in V/H/S/2).
Apostle is one of the most unsettling, manic, and grim horrors I’ve seen in a long time. The cinematography is grimy and damp lending an uncomfortable vibe to the island. The pacing is rapid from the start as the terror unfolds almost immediately and that’s only on the surface level of this cult, what hides beneath it all is infinitely more disturbing. Dan Stevens delivers yet another intense and unhinged performance solidifying my belief he’s one of the most versatile actors working today. Where it slightly falters is letting its story slide and fall into the background in favour of horrific set piece after set piece.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
You kind of have to admire the balls on Sony to introduce a comic book character who’s entire origins depends on the existence of another, and then for them to completely disregard that. Although to their credit they got Tom Hardy onboard so maybe they figured his star power alone could pave over these shortcomings. And it worked!!! Venom raked in $855.17 million which is an incredible amount of money despite its poor critical reception. Even fans of the character were happy to see him finally done justice (in their eyes) on the big screen.
Venom is a strange beast in that it’s a tale of two halves. The opening Venomless 40 mins is a slog of clichéd dialogue, boring character set up, and a disappointing performance from the usually superb Riz Ahmed. For all the lifelessness of this first half, Venom then takes a U-turn once the titular character graces the screen and we get some of the funniest physical comedy of the year. The Eddie Brock/Venom dynamic is delightful to watch in all it’s ludicrous glory as they bicker like a married couple over tater tots and eating peoples heads. Despite an entertaining second act and finale, the film can’t shake off the shortcomings of what precedes it.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Life of the Party
I tend to have a bad habit of avoiding comedies which are critically lambasted. I’m aware as a reviewer being so selective is not always the best trait but sitting through a laughless, joyless comedy only ever makes me more aware of my own mortality and how little time we have on this planet. Life of The Party was one of the few dogshit comedies I didn’t just switch off and this came down to courtesy. It was selected by a good friend and I had to keep my mouth shut and try not to look like a film snob.
Melissa McCarthy is a very funny woman and has given me some of the biggest laughs over the last few years. She has an intensity and talent for ad-libbing that matches any comedy actor today. Unfortunately, her movie selection is a mixed bag and too many times have we seen hear humour nullified by terrible screenwriting, something we see a lot with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. I realize I’ve talked very little about the actual film and that’s because there’s so little mention, it’s devoid of any original jokes and derives its humour from old people doing young people stuff = comedy gold. This film hurt my feelings.
Rating: 1 / 5
Perhaps the biggest disappointment for me this year was the much anticipated Halloween sequel that promised to right the wrongs of the series. Bringing Jaime Lee Curtis back and John Carpenter onboard to do the score only raised my anticipation to unbearable levels. Green and McBride genuinely seemed like die-hard fans and understood what made the sequel so great.
Halloween is not a bad movie but just a far cry from the original. I loved seeing Lauri Strode back and kicking ass, her story came full circle and had some real depth. The same could not be said for the vast majority of this clichéd and irritating cast. Michael Myers still solidifies himself as a terrifying presence and I love that he is nothing more than evil incarnate. The film has an interesting premise in that he holds no attachment to Strode nor does he seek her out but unfortunately the film needs that final confrontation even if it works against everything interesting that it established.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
One of the biggest questions I have on the internet is just how much am I exposing myself? It’s a thought that genuinely unnerves me and has always kept me two steps back in this new age of information and technology. I leave sites that ask for details and make most of my purchases offline for fear of what information I share may fall into the wrong hands. I try to convince myself it’s an irrational fear and then films like Searching and Cam come along!!!
Cam delves into the unexplored world of Cam girls and how it’s a competitive market all about customer retention and getting to the top of a ranking board. It’s an interesting look that doesn’t necessarily judge anyone (even if the audience members are pretty pathetic) but emphasizes ruthless capitalism even on an adult digital platform. Where the horror of Cam begins is a form of digital identity theft which escalates into a brilliant mystery film and gruesome finale. If you haven’t seen Cam it’s a must watch.
Rating: 4 / 5
There’s something about a prestigious director going from an Oscar-winning film to a pulpy heist movie that just brings joy to my heart. Steve McQueen needs no introduction as his films speak for themselves but the concept behind Widows had my shaking in anticipation. Add a stellar cast and you got a winning mix.
Widows is both hard-hitting, brutal, hilarious, and touching. It’s a phrase I probably overuse but this film is a rollercoaster of emotions. This is due to a dynamic cast and a bulletproof script. It tackles themes of loss, grief and class divide in an emotional and mature manner.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for everyone who worked on this film when Disney also retain the rights to the project and can just pour their infinite resources into the project so it hits the silver screen first even though this film was in production and scripted first. This meant that director Andy Serkis saw his project renamed, rescheduled and then dumped on Netflix by the studio. Despite this films commitment to the actual source material, with the darker elements included, it was still met with the reaction of “why are they already releasing another Jungle Book movie”.
Putting aside Disney’s shady practices, Mowgli is a solid film and a very good retelling of Kipling’s novel. The motion capture effects are rather off-putting initially but I began to warm to it quickly as I saw the range of emotions it allowed for each actor. The performances are great especially from young Rohan Chand and the film carries a lot more weight and consequence than Disney’s 2016 version (although I still hold that version in higher regard).
Rating: 3.5 / 5
It seems like every year now we can expect a high-quality horror film to divide audiences. Usually, this is due to the film exploring a more personal horror or replacing jump scares with high tension and more uncomfortable themes. The divisiveness is largely due to these films marketed as the scariest film in years which doesn’t describe the film accurately or what it’s trying to achieve.
Hereditary is the film that fits that description this year and while it split audiences down the middle I really found it the most unsettling horror I’ve seen in years. While most of the typical horror scenes are saved for the third act its the unbearable escalation during the first two acts that gets under your skin and pulls the biggest punches. Ari Aster crafts a unique and skillfully shot horror that I won’t forget for years.
Rating: 4 / 5
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are a dynamic duo worth your attention. Over the previous five years, they have delivered three fantastic low-budget Sci-Fi/Horror films with a heavy Lovecraftian vibe. While their focus hasn’t been on ancient terrors or monstrous gods, they have translated themes such as the descent into madness and the every day becoming a nightmare. While their films aren’t scary in the traditional sense, the true horror lies in what befalls their always compelling characters.
The Endless is about two brothers who escaped a doomsday cult finding themselves drawn back just for a sense of closure. Benson and Moorhead play the two main characters and prove their acting chops are just as refined as their directing. It’s an intriguing film with a central mystery that skewers what is reality and fiction. It’s superbly well acted, flawlessly shot and even the CGI is impressive for its shoestring budget. I don’t just recommend this film but the entire catalog from these fine filmmakers.
Rating: 4 / 5