Arts

David Roy picks his best and worst films of 2018

With 2018 almost over and awards season imminent, David Roy looks back at some of his favourite and least-favourite films of the past 12 months...

Assassination Nation was one of this year's best movies

THERE have been a lot of fine films released during 2018, offering us hope that not every movie made these days is a superhero CGI fest aimed at 12-year-olds – although I hear Spider-Man: Enter The Spiderverse is actually excellent fun for kids of all ages – a sequel that nobody was demanding except Hollywood studio accountants or the latest spin-off from a superhero franchise.

Here's seven of my film favourites from the past 12 months.

:: Assassination Nation

Director: Sam Levinson

Starring: Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Abra

Sam Levinson's smart, stylish and disturbing satire on the demise of privacy/ the corrosive power of social media climaxes with its teenage central characters being terrorised by hysterical and heavily armed townsfolk after a cyber attack reveals everyone's deepest, darkest digital secrets to the world.

Heathers for the Instagram generation, Assassination Nation didn't seem to find its audience at the cinema, but is surely destined to become a cult favourite on other platforms thanks to its dynamic, genre-blurring mix of patriarchy-baiting teen drama, bloody, Purge-esque action/horror and jet-black humour.

:: The Dig

Directors: Ryan and Andy Tohill

Starring: Moe Dunford, Francis Magee, Emily Taaffe, Lorcan Cranitch

With an instantly intriguing premise – murderer who can't remember his crime teams up with victim's father to find her body – moody, slow-burning independent thriller The Dig was one of the most memorable Irish films of this year.

An assured feature debut from Belfast film-making twins Ryan and Andy Tohill featuring a stand-out lead performance by Moe Dunford as an anguished amnesiac, The Dig's compelling character-driven intrigue benefits from its bone-chillingly bleak and muck-smeared location work in rural Co Antrim and writer Stuart Drennan's narratively daring final revelation.

:: Black '47

Director: Lance Daly

Starring: James Frecheville, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Jim Broadbent

One of the most impressive Irish films of 2018 was Lance Daly's Black '47, a powerful revenge thriller featuring mostly Irish-language dialogue and set in the apocalyptic aftermath of the Famine.

There's shades of a good old fashioned Western to this subtitled tale, which finds Irish-born British army man Feeney (James Frecheville) transformed into an avenging angel when the last of his family is brutalised by crown-backed landowners.

Feeney makes an excellent wild-eyed killing machine, an enjoyably glowering Hugo Weaving gives good disgraced cop as the British pursuer dispatched to stem the Irishman's bloodlust, while a twinkly-eyed Stephen Rea tags along to translate/steal scenes.

:: Blackkklansman

Director: Spike Lee

Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Michael Buscemi, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Ken Garito

Spike Lee's hugely anticipated based-on-a-true-story Blackkklansman did not disappoint: a timely dramatic comedy/thriller about a black police officer who successfully infiltrated the Colorado KKK in the mid-1970s, this super-stylish film's period examination of race relations crackles with a contemporary relevancy rammed home by a shocking end sequence comprising real modern day news footage.

The film also proved to audiences that John David Washington has similar star power to his famous father and that Michael Buscemi is just as good a character actor as his more famous brother, Steve.

:: Sorry To Bother You

Director: Boots Riley

Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Armie Hammer, Danny Glover, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews.

A late contender for one of 2018's best and most memorable movies, Sorry To Bother You is an auspicious, delightfully off-kilter feature debut for rapper/film-maker Boots Riley.

A razor-sharp and wickedly funny commentary on neo-conservative culture a la RoboCop and They Live!, it finds leading man Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta, Get Out) solidifying his reputation as one of the most distinctive actors around while playing a luckless telemarketer who compromises his values in exchange for financial success.

His rude awakening coincides with the film's entertainingly crazed slide into full-blown sci-fi satire, featuring a fully committed performance by Armie Hammer as a seriously unhinged oligarch hell-bent on world domination.

:: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Director: Martin McDonagh

Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, Peter Dinklage

At this late stage of 2018, it's easy to forget what a big impact Martin McDonagh's latest film had on audiences – not to mention 'awards season' – when it was released way back in January.

However, with the possible exception of the aformentioned Blackkklansman, there hasn't really been another movie since that's managed to become such an instant talking point in the manner of this darkly comic tale of a mother (an Oscar-winning McDormand) hell-bent on getting justice for her murdered daughter.

"An early contender for film of the year – do believe the hype" is what we said then: nothing more to add now (other than "told ya so".)

:: Isle of Dogs

Director: Wes Anderson

Starring (voices): Bryan Cranston, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson

Another typically quirky offering from the idiosyncratic mind of Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Grand Budapest Hotel), this near future-set stop-motion made delight concerns a rag-tag pack of island-bound canines who team up with a 12-year-old boy to take on the corrupt cat-loving Tokyo politician who's had them exiled from the city.

A pleasing mix of madcap action and droll humour and much better than Anderson's previous diversion from live action, The Fantastic Mr Fox, Isle of Dogs is a film well worth (re)visiting.

***PANEL***

Header: Three to flee

EVERY year has its share of cinematic stinkers – and 2018 has certainly been no exception: here's a trio of truly terrible flicks you may want to avoid for all time.

:: The Predator

Director: Shane Black

Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan Michael-Key, Thomas Jane

It was probably stupid to pin any hope on The Predator in the wake of a multitude of lesser sequels to the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi action classic, yet somehow the involvement of Shane 'Hawkins' Black (Lethal Weapon, The Nice Guys) as co-writer and director suggested it might prove to be a badly needed resurrection for the ailing franchise.

Sadly, The Predator is actually one of the worst stinkers of the lot: tone deaf and seemingly cut and pasted together to conceal the major reshoots which delayed its release, it makes the underwhelming Predator 2 seem like an Oscar contender.

:: The Meg

Director: Jon Turtletaub

Starring: Jason Statham, Rainn Wilson, Li Bingbing, Winston Chao, Sophia Cai

"Jason Statham fights a giant shark? When can I buy my ticket?!" This was how millions of adoring fans reacted to the prospect of watching thinking man's action hero 'The Stath' knocking seven bells out of a steroidal CGI Jaws – unfortunately, the film-makers managed to deliver a veritable 'some bad hat, Harry' of a picture which delivered a feeble one-and-a-half moments of genuine tension throughout its entire snooze-inducing running time.

Seriously, how is it possible to make such a boring film about a 75-foot long prehistoric killing machine? Best ask director Jon Turtletaub – talk about snatching defeat from the Jaws of victory.

In a word: toothless.

:: The 15:17 To Paris

Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone

Based on the terrifying true tale of heroism which saw three Americans risking their lives to help overpower and disarm a heavily armed would-be jihadist on a Paris-bound train during their European vacation in 2015, director Clint Eastwood spends most of the film showing us the trio – who, bafflingly, he chose to play themselves on screen – sight-seeing and partying in various scenic spots.

The recreation of the foiled train attack is appropriately tense and harrowing, but aside from that 10-minute sequence, this undoubtedly well-intentioned film is about as enjoyable as viewing the holiday videos of three slightly annoying American tourists.

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