Escape Room (2019)

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Escape rooms as a concept are quite the mind-bending rage at the moment; the excitement of something different that both tests your brains and your friendships is a successful business model so surely this cinematic outing could gleefully mould the idea into a intelligent horror? Well not quite, however silly and fun it sometimes is.

Introverted student Zoey (Taylor Russell) is told to do something scary for once and along with five other people, she is sent a mysterious puzzle box which invites them all to take on a new, immersive escape room where the winner can gain $1 million. However things won’t be plain sailing as they realise the game has been tailored to kill them if they can’t get out.

From the outset this is a dumb flick, who would go to an escape room where the winner gets a cash prize? The whole point of them is that they are a team game so it already sounds like a dangerous scheme and generally speaking the story doesn’t get much smoother. The rules of this deadly game change at will which is a frustrating tact and as a games master myself; where I get to witness everyday folk do well, only to go and ruin their chances by making stupid choices as the stress of the 60 minutes whittles away, this film has many convenient points where characters just happen to work out stuff, even though all of them bar one have never played a room before and their panic levels are much higher than found in the place where I work. Obviously it’s a movie but don’t make their leaps to solving problems so sudden and uninspired.

It’s almost like ‘Escape Room’ views itself as smarter than it really is, it’s falls way short of the devilishly clever film it could have been. Mostly, this is a dumb narrative with a group of strangers missing any real pulls of tension which could help throw the audience into the game some more. The connection they have is more like some predictable, half-arsed writing decision and a lot of the film is a fun, yet stupid ride which isn’t majorly thrilling.

In terms of a series of distracting events, this is a great movie. There’s no doubt that the entertainment factor is there and though it is clearly a less than thought through screenplay feeling majorly like ‘Saw’ and ‘The Belko Experiment’, the actors get their teeth into the roles and convince us enough that the tests they’re facing are worthy of our time. The production design must also be praised as this Minos company has an epic scale and each nightmarish new room ups the threat, be it an upside down bar or a freezing cold landscape the look of this film is especially cool.

‘Escape Room’ never goes above and beyond the premise that was so ripe for the taking and it has a ridiculous conclusion but there are enough fairly neat puzzles and bursts of suspense to keep this from being a dud.

5.5/10

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Destroyer (2019)

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Harsh and never letting up, ‘Destroyer’ is a ferociously tough thriller; one which certainly leaves you close to stunned silence as the credits materialise.

After receiving a tainted $100 note, detective Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) believes something from her past has come back. Years ago, she and Chris (Sebastian Stan) infiltrated a gang and their leader could have returned. By any means she can, Bell hopes to get to the man behind it all and close a dark chapter in her life.

Karyn Kusama who previously directed the chillingly great ‘The Invitation’ is behind this near masterful work. The way she ensures that her cast and the story keep on track as this rough and rasping crime which you can’t look away from are fantastic. The story she’s working with is just as merciless. Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi have, apart from the aforementioned horror film, written a run of mostly comedy duds, this is by and large a soar to excellence. The story is cleverly wound and the way the narrative flits back and forth between past and present draws you in.

Julie Kirkwood’s cinematography is as blistering as the unfiltered heat of the California sun, soaking almost every frame of the film. You can really feel the yellow stained edgy nature of this thriller set in the aptly named Golden State. On top of the great visuals is some brooding music from Theodore Shapiro, whose score crackles with a sharp intensity amplifying the tension of the gritty world of which Erin traipses through.

There is a mother/daughter relationship which does seem like a detracting factor at first but it becomes an all encompassing touch of heart straining to reach through the blood, murkiness and nastiness that the central detective has been a part of for too long. Kidman portrays Erin searching amongst the grime of her past with a sensational presence. It’s a peak performance from the actor who embodies the worn off duty cop with sun-bleached skin, frayed hair and sunken eyes from the make-up department complimenting the fascinating turn from Kidman.

Opening and closing on Erin Bell’s eyes, this movie sees us looking at what is mostly a bleary environment for her nowadays, the why to this becomes clearer and all the more haunting as the film develops. An uneasy watch but a great one.

7.5/10

Glass (2019)

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After 2016’s ‘Split’ which surprised viewers with a Bruce Willis sting from his ‘Unbreakable’ days, M. Night Shyamalan returns to round out his world of inner demons as the three powered individuals finally come face to face.

It’s been 3 weeks since the grisly events at the Philadelphia Zoo by the hands of Kevin aka The Horde (James McAvoy). Trying to stop crimes and track Kevin down is David Dunn aka The Overseer (Bruce Willis). They’re stopped in their tracks by Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a doctor who specialises in people who believe they’re special. At an institution, Kevin and David meet Elijah aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) who hopes to concoct a masterful plan with the new arrivals.

‘Split’ was a hit and deserved the praise it received. ‘The Sixth Sense’ director Shyamalan hasn’t exactly had a smooth course in recent years but aside from the beast mode antics of James McAvoy, the film had great dollops of horror and thriller qualities. You’d hope that the closing chapter would retain that and cleverly add to it by putting Willis and Jackson in the mix but that is not the case. It’s a movie which feels oddly tame, close to boring and has little to no thriller elements.

‘Glass’ feels like a gruesome amalgamation of 3 films and the plot points really do not hold up well, even on a first watch you can instantly pick up on stupid writing and Shyamalan’s unrelenting desire to toss in twists becomes more ridiculous as the story reaches the finale. There’s this whole notion of comic book heroes and villains, origin tales and power which are all dealt with in a heavy-handed manner thanks to some properly awful dialogue.

It doesn’t help that the film tires you out. There are many times where you’d expect it to end and in all honesty you hope it so but alas, the movie keeps chugging along not knowing when to call it quits. The over-stretched run time revolving around a trio of supers becomes a weakening story and by the end you can’t help but look back on it as a mess with unintentionally amusing moments.

West Dylan Thordson’s score shrieks with a perfect moody darkness, the sounds tingle with an unnerving edge and another big positive lies at the feet of James McAvoy, who without this movie would be a disaster. The almost never ending rotation of personalities that he cycles through are impeccably acted and he becomes a sinister force to watch.

‘Glass’ is a mostly dumb flick with just a couple of good moments. The plot cracks like fine china and is 100% breakable.

5/10

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)

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A Bandersnatch is a character cooked up by Lewis Carroll and is never explicitly detailed but it is meant to be a ferocious creature with snapping jaws. This Black Mirror film definitely reflects those fierce jaws with a snappy interactive feature carefully woven into the disturbing tapestry, of which you come to expect from Charlie Brooker’s dark look at technology.

July 1984 and Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) is desperately hoping to program a video game based around a choose your own adventure book which he owns. He calls his creation ‘Bandersnatch’ and it’s modelled after the many different paths the user can take in building their own story through the game. As he works, Stefan has to deal with anxiety, past trauma, a deadline and the inescapable feeling that he’s not in control.

The ‘Black Mirror’ series is a crackling anthology; one with little in the way of weaknesses, only to be found in the later seasons. This is the first full length film to come out of the world mastered by Brooker. This time around he’s upped the anti and taken inspiration from those choose your adventure stories and during this movie you are presented with 2 options, what you pick could determine Stefan’s fate. It’s a movie with so many directions that your chosen film experience could last 40-90 minutes, as there are around 150 minutes of footage that could be selected depending on your choices.

This easily could have been a cheap gimmick with no substance but this built-in interactive design works because the 80’s set story is interesting enough to sustain interest. Granted it does take a while to get into the film and with choices being fired at you quite quickly it can feel a little bit longer to get going but in the latter stages, of course depending on where your story goes, it gets twisted and fuelled with worrying paranoia.

As a film it doesn’t quite work, there’s something missing because of the choices offered up. You can’t quite get lost in the plot, the immersion factor is lost because you have those stressful 10 seconds to mull over what you want the character to say/do. In terms of a psychological test though it is exceptional. The complicity of us an audience is greatly utilised; our participation in Stefan’s life becomes a game and it isn’t long until you could be gleefully making deadly actions occur. The films talk of free will and the paths you can go down in life is greatly scripted, so either from choosing a cereal or whether to fight your therapist, this interactive design greatly says more about its user than the film.

Though there are times when the film shuttles backwards because a decision you made leaves you with no option but to revisit the past. This kind of works because it happens in choose your own adventure books but after a while of being presented with just one option, because your earlier choice was wrong, it starts making you lose interest.

So whilst ‘Bandersnatch’ may not be the most smooth running narrative to get lost in, there’s enough bleak humour and game-inspired tricks to choose from and re-choose again.

7/10

2018 Top 50

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Smile folks, it’s been an absolute blast this year in the cinemas and on streaming services alike. Yes, if you want to jump right in with my top 10 movies, I have already compiled a top ten list which you can find HERE, but if like me, you can’t abide a whole ton of great movies not getting their dues then this is their time to shine as I’ve come up with my first ever Top 50 countdown!

*Disclaimer* – I have not seen certain films like ‘Mandy’ or ‘Leave No Trace’ hence their absence and no ‘Truth or Dare’ doesn’t rock up, though it was a fine comedy. Okay, away we go…

50 – NEXT GEN

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A surprisingly fun and pacy cartoon flick with futuristic ideas and a charming connection between gal and bot.

Review – ‘Next Gen’

49 – MARY POPPINS RETURNS

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Emily Blunt steps into the ten to two shoes of Julie Andrews and does a spiffing job as the prim and proper nanny with magic endlessly pulled from her special bag.

Trip the Light Fantastic over to my review – ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

48 – ROMA

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Alfonso Cuaron’s black and white semi-biographical tale which hit Netflix is absolutely beautiful to look at but I just can’t quite connect to the majesty that everyone else has seen. There’s a fine story and lovely cinematography but that’s about it, no higher in the list. Don’t @ me.

My review is here – ‘Roma’

47 – BUMBLEBEE

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If someone had told me that a ‘Transformers’ spin-off would have featured higher than a stunning foreign movie lauded for Oscar glory I would have scoffed…a lot. But Travis Knight has captured the fun and nostalgic appeal that Michael Bay could only dream of.

No Decepticons here, this is a good film, my review – ‘Bumblebee’

46 – A STAR IS BORN

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Bradley Cooper dons a stetson and the first-time director title in this fourth telling of ‘A Star is Born’, it has some issues but a mostly great soundtrack and the might of Lady Gaga help this romantic country and western musical come alive.

Step into the Shallow end with my review – ‘A Star is Born’

45 – JOURNEY’S END

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A sombre and reflective WW2 drama, this truly grips you and makes you thoughtful about the dark trench warfare these brave soldiers faced. Sam Claflin and Asa Butterfield are excellent.

The journey begins with my review – ‘Journey’s End’

44 – CAM

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Another Netflix feature that took me by surprise, this has dark and original ideas and a blisteringly brilliant performance from Madeline Brewer makes this tech-thriller/horror a sexy yet smartly creepy film.

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43 – GAME NIGHT

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Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams are a fun pairing in this entertaining comedic flick but the true MVP and best selling point for the films worth is Jesse Plemmons.

Roll a dice, right foot yellow and review is yours – ‘Game Night’

42 – ISLE OF DOGS

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Another quirky and lovely stop-motion outing from the wonderful Wes Anderson, this poochy plot has moments of rabid darkness but plenty of delightful storytelling.

Woof! My review is out of the kennel – ‘Isle of Dogs’

41 – A SIMPLE FAVOR

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Paul Feig’s latest has definitely divided audiences but I for one thoroughly enjoyed this strange concoction of humour and thrills all tinged with a French cinema flavour.

Only a simple favour to ask but please check out my review – ‘A Simple Favor’

40 – THOROUGHBREDS

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Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy are chillingly exceptional in this fairly cold yet entrancing off-beat film. It’s quite simply put, an original film with unsettling music and unpredictable moments.

Give my review a thoroughread – ‘Thoroughbreds’

39 – MOM AND DAD

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Crazy is as crazy does: surely a motto best suited to Nicolas Cage. This frenzied and pacy film may not be a superb film but I had a right good time watching the madness unfold and it knows what it is – a pure delightful crash of crazy.

Read more – ‘Mom and Dad’

38 – THE NIGHT COMES FOR US

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Woah Nelly! This Indonesian action which is on Netflix is a furious and bloody thriller which may be light on plot but is soaring to the heavens with hellish injury detail and electrically charged, fascinating fight choreography.

37 – GHOST STORIES

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Originally a stage show, which is somewhat evident at certain points, what with some theatrical elements and practical frights leading the way, this is a nightmarish and engrossing British horror with clever storytelling.

Boo! My review – ‘Ghost Stories’

36 – TULLY

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This is most certainly a film that goes somewhere a healthy percentage of audiences might not expect but it doesn’t tarnish the previously built maternal plot and Charlize Theron’s stunningly crafted performance, if anything it just makes it a more memorable story.

Don’t dilly dally – ‘Tully’

35 – THE HATE U GIVE

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Upon seeing the trailer I really wasn’t expecting to get anything from this film. Happily it’s much more than a generic YA adaptation, it has emotion, heart and the richest relevance to current world events. Amandla Stenberg & Russell Hornsby are mind-blowingly effective in this.

Don’t let the THUG-life get ya, read my review – ‘The Hate U Give’

34 – THE SHAPE OF WATER

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You can always trust on Guillermo del Toro to make a dark fantasy a totally captivating experience and this time the Academy Awards agreed, gifting this woman-loves-fish story the Best Picture trophy. It’s beautiful, weird and Sally Hawkins is the perfect lead.

The Shape of my Review can be found here – ‘The Shape of Water’

33 – BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

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A true ensemble piece of cinema and a film noir that almost fully sinks its teeth into you. Aside from a slightly dissatisfying story that takes over, this is a clever, highly original movie and well acted thriller which deserved higher box office.

No bad times with my review – ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’

32 – CRAZY RICH ASIANS

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I openly admit I’m not an advocate for the rom-com genre but this family set story around an impending wedding really bowled me over. The luxurious visuals, stunning locations and more stunning cast balance romance and humour with finesse.

Take a walk down the aisle to my review – ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

31 – YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

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Lynne Ramsay excellently weaves a gritty and immersive city thriller, aided by an astonishing turn from Joaquin Phoenix, this has threads of ‘Taxi Driver’ and is a bold and tense piece of cinematic art.

30 – RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET

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Fairly bloated with internet bustin’ gags and Disney references, but it’s fun, fast and a well animated sequel with Ralph and Vanellope just as endearing a friendship duo as back in 2012.

It’s good and that’s not bad, my thoughts – ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’

29 – SORRY TO BOTHER YOU

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Truly original and absurd, two qualities which you can’t complain about in the climate of sequels/prequels and the like. Boots Riley goes all in directing & writing a superb screenplay that links to current affairs and issues in an offbeat, comical and twisted manner.

Giddy up over to my review – ‘Sorry to Bother You’

28 – PHANTOM THREAD

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Possibly Daniel Day-Lewis’ final feature, his role under the direction of Paul Thomas Anderson is sublime, as are Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville…and a beautifully acted breakfast scene for the ages. This early UK 2018 film looks gorgeous and bursts with spits of spite and comedy.

Sew, a needle, pull and thread – ‘Phantom Thread’

27 – IN THE FADE

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Diane Kruger’s first German feature and one that’s put across the audience in three parts. Not every part is as strong as the other and a finale may be slightly lacking but a gritty opening and glossy, tense court room second act along with Kruger’s formidable performance make this a solid thriller of loss and revenge.

1, 2…Kruger’s coming for you – ‘In the Fade’

26 – BLACK PANTHER

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A massive hit and an even bigger stepping stone for black representation in superhero movies, this Marvel entry deals with spectacle, politics and leadership with detail and thought, fuelled by a great villain expertly handled by Michael B. Jordan, ‘Black Panther’ is a near-perfect comic-book film.

Enter Wakanda – ‘Black Panther’

25 – AMERICAN ANIMALS

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This is a clever spin on the heist genre as director Bart Layton mixes truth and fiction by blending the real life people alongside his actors. As the films plan nears fruition, the gang and audience alike are left unable to back out to culpability.

A review is up for grabs just here, go on, go – ‘American Animals’

24 – THE INCREDIBLES 2

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After 14 years too long, Pixar returned to the Parr family and their mix of city saving powers. The one animated feature deserving of a sequel, this one does not disappoint. Apart from a predictable turn of events and villain, this is a joyous and stunning animation to watch and any return of Edna Mode is a positive in my book.

Dash over to my review – ‘Incredibles 2’

23 – BLACKKKLANSMAN

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This Spike Lee joint is a funny and disturbing tale of KKK infiltration. It makes you laugh but importantly, it’s something which makes you irate, angry and fits nicely against the backdrop of divide so felt nowadays. Style and power rip through this film.

Don’t be a Duke, click my review – ‘BlackKklansman’

22 – THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

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The Coen Brothers enter the Netflix way of life with this western anthology of six mini stories. The likes of James Franco, Tim Blake Nelson and Zoe Kazan excel in their segments. Sure, not all the tales are great and there may not be a resolute connection between them but it’s masterfully acted and captures the heart…and dust of the western genre.

21 – OVERLORD

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You’d not be wrong in thinking from outside glance this would be a naff horror but it’s in fact so much better than that. A gem of war, thriller and gory zombie effects, this is a brain-splattering delight.

Come on over – ‘Overlord’

20 – WILDLIFE

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Paul Dano & Zoe Kazan create a thing of quiet beauty in this drama about family. The former calls the shots as debut director and this adaptation of a 1990 novel is stunning not to just to look at but to revel in the towering acting from Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan. Scenic views, fraught relationships and a teen running home in the snow are tenderly accomplished.

Check out the ‘Wildlife’

19 – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

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I’ve always enjoyed the writings of Irish playwright and ‘In Bruges’ commander Martin McDonagh, this angry tale of grief and, well anger is no exception. The mix of great comedy and uneasy darkness clouding over Ebbing are thickly coated but don’t outweigh Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand.

More of my musings – ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

18 – HEREDITARY

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Jinkies, this horror from Ari Aster is a chilling and terrifyingly effective narrative of family tensions. If you took out all the damned creepy moments then this would be a drama on grief and that only highlights the weirder, scarier qualities included by Aster. Toni Collette is absolutely fantastic in this.

Don’t click your tongue, lcckk – ‘Hereditary’

17 – WIDOWS

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Steve McQueen tackles the thriller genre but makes sure to keep his sturdy understanding of character to make this an investing movie, led by four strong women. The moments of heist drama are tense and the more politically angled aspects are wonderfully handled.

Mission: read my review. I’m sure you’ve got the balls to pull this off – ‘Widows’

16 – COCO

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Two Pixar releases for the UK in 2018 and both make my top 50, mostly because their animation is always so delectable but on top of this they’re a studio almost always capturing emotional and captivating stories. ‘Coco’ is no exception, this Day of the Dead inspired animation tugs on the heart strings and incorporates tingling music and colourful visuals.

 Don’t forget to click my review, Remember Me – ‘Coco’

15 – ASSASSINATION NATION

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This is 100% a movie which will split people, I can see why some will dislike the heck out of it but I positively loved the stuffing out of this bold, loud and violent film. It pops with trigger warnings of every nature and the feminine power of the above fearsome foursome are a force to be reckoned with as their town turns on them.

Reveal some more secrets – ‘Assassination Nation’

14 – ANNIHILATION 

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Shamefully Alex Garland’s recent sci-fi didn’t get to UK cinemas but it’s streaming on Netflix and is a sheer masterpiece of visuals and is also a movie which leaves you thinking. Headed by a brave team of females, this mix of science and horror is dreamy, ambiguous and downright superb.

Enter the Shimmer – ‘Annihilation’

13 – UPGRADE

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Rammed to the skies with inventive camera shots and pacy fight scenes, this adrenaline fuelled futuristic flick bursts out of the screen with entertaining energy. On top of this, it has flashes of humour, body-horror and stylish flair.

There’s no need to Upgrade to find my review – ‘Upgrade’

12 – A QUIET PLACE

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This film has magnificent levels of sustained threat, wince-inducing visuals of pain, smart uses of playing around with sound and Emily Blunt on top form as a pregnant wife caught up in a farmhouse of fear. John Krasinski becomes feature director for the first time and really gets to grips with the model of horror building making this one of the most effective cinema experiences I’ve ever been part of.

Ssssh, my review is over here – ‘A Quiet Place’

11 – THE BREADWINNER

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The creators behind ‘Song of the Sea’ have gifted the world another animated gem. This one is less fantastical though and this Middle-Eastern texture only makes the film a much more heart-felt trip, one that’s interspersed with yarns of magic but the plight of a girl stepping up and out to help her family is a powerful and outstanding watch.

My review for #11 is here – ‘The Breadwinner’

There we have it, those were my top 40 films of 2018 and now it’s time to reveal my faves of faves as I collect the big 10.

10 – SEARCHING

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John Cho leads a frenzied hunt for his missing daughter in a screen-set thriller that is anything but a cheap gimmick. The tension is palpable and the story is riveting, as it’s portrayed through calls, Facebook and other social media searches.

No need to search far as the review is here – ‘Searching’

9 – HALLOWEEN

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Michael Myers returned, swiftly and thankfully, slashing away all the sequels, letting this story follow on 40 years after what happened to Laurie Strode that fateful Halloween night. David Gordon Green shows he has a skill for the horror genre and the entire team clearly adore the original which is why this feels like a perfect chilling return to form for the Shape.

Don’t fear the Boogeyman – ‘Halloween’

8 – LADY BIRD

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Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a brilliant, humour filled coming of age story about mothers and daughters. There are great pangs of emotion and with perfect performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, you feel wrapped up in a comforting blanket watching this film.

It’s the titular role – ‘Lady Bird’

7 – HEARTS BEAT LOUD

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Well, here is a film that utterly bowled me over and completely surpassed my expectations for it being a generically mediocre Sundance indie. What this film is, is pure charm and sunshine, with Offerman and Clemons providing great music as a dad and his daughter. The songs are glorious and I’d be lying if I said I don’t listen to them almost constantly.

Don’t blink, my review isn’t a million miles away – ‘Hearts Beat Loud’

6 – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

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I truly don’t care what some filmy types and critics have been saying about this film. I positively adored the majority of this foot-tapping, hand-clapping tale of Queen and its front man, the legendary Freddie Mercury, who is exquisitely played by Rami Malek. The film is fun and the music speaks for itself. A stadium sized biopic that will rock you.

You are the Champions if you give my review a read – ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

5 – I, TONYA

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Margot Robbie steps onto the ice as Tonya Harding in this fresh and exciting visceral take on an ill-fated moment of Winter Olympics drama. Allison Janney is a great supporting feature as Harding’s mum and throughout we see a story presented in way that’s unreliable but entertaining, which makes the latter emotional moments that more resounding.

Get your skates on to the review – ‘I, Tonya’

4 – REVENGE

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This is a blood soaked film, one which side-steps away from the schlock way of vengeful flicks and becomes an engrossing thriller capably led by bad-ass Matilda Lutz. This is an explosive female led and directed movie from Coralie Fargeat which arrived in May and I haven’t forgotten about in the slightest.

My review won’t put up a fight – ‘Revenge’

3 – AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

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Snapping its fingers and claiming bronze, this is an epic comic-book celebration that I saw three times and didn’t tire with any minute of it. Unlike repeat viewings of ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Age of Ultron’, this is a blockbuster outing which grows better upon more watches. There’s the purple might of a superb villain, great visuals and a cracking conclusion to ten years of MCU building.

You don’t need to assemble any heroes to locate my review – ‘Infinity War’

2 – SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

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Miles Morales swings into the hot spot of silver, in the only animation to feature on my top ten. This is not only one of the most sensational animations I’ve seen but one of the best films, full stop. The styles are incredible, the voice work is perfect and the story is just right for the Spider-Man world.

Sling yourself over to the review – ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

1 – MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

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This is the sixth instalment in the M:I franchise and it is showing no signs of exhaustion, in fact quite the contrary, with action hero Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie again teaming up to make Ethan Hunt and his globe-trotting, ankle-breaking antics an exhilarating treat to see. The stunts are next level and knowing they are practically executed makes you appreciate the action that much more than a second rate movie filling in set pieces with CGI. Fallout is 100% the real deal and is one of the finest action films I’ve seen…ever.

My review won’t self destruct in 30 seconds – ‘Mission:Impossible – Fallout’

Bird Box (2018)

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It has been claimed by streaming giants Netflix, that this film gained over 45 million viewers in its first week, those are some impressive figures and it isn’t too difficult to see why because ‘Bird Box’ has an interesting premise, stellar cast and flitting moments of chilling unease to draw you in.

Around the world, masses of people are committing suicide causing great hysteria for people hoping to survive. It becomes quickly clear that covering your eyes and not stepping foot outside can be helpful but stuck in a house with a mixture of personalities leads to frayed tensions. Malorie (Sandra Bullock) tries to remain calm in her situation but as the film shifts back and forth in time we see what a dangerous journey she has to make.

Based on a 2014 novel by Josh Malerman, this is a post-apocalyptic movie with a fairly interesting plot. It definitely could have gone further with the premise, these mysterious dark influencers causing folk to kill themselves are a worrying threat but the ideas don’t ever fully reach their target, it just feels like this film is almost missing something.

What with the silence of ‘Hush’ and the quietness of ‘A Quiet Place’, sense deprivation in horror is proving to be a diving board for storytelling in strained circumstances. Unlike those two, this one doesn’t stand as strong, there are one too many moments throughout that detract from the film, either by feeling ridiculous, posing too many unanswered questions or having the characters move and therefore the film loses impact.

It is this latter issue which made the film less exciting than I hoped it’d be. A house bound portion of the film is filled to the rafters with acting talent and lets cabin fever settle in but as ‘Bird Box’ jumps forward and backwards in time, it loses tension and the river boat sequences just aren’t that good. Then after a certain point the remainder of the film feels weak, as if trying to claw on with the chilling factor but it can’t quite sustain the brilliant burst of doom witnessed in the beginning.

Sandra Bullock is great in this, her frustrations and angry eagerness to persist are note perfect as is her sarcasm. John Malkovich is bold as the man all thrillers have, in where they speak words no-one else wishes to utter, you’re meant to dislike him but in world ending moments I’d kind of agree with what he says, is that bad?! Trevante Rhodes is the heroic figure, always staying on the side of caution and kindness and he has good chemistry with Bullock. Tom Hollander pops up and once he does, the entrapping quality of the house is amplified by his magnificent performance.

Aside from an ending where a location of haven is revealed and is pretty laughable and a mixture of good and bad points swirling like a boat bashing on water, ‘Bird Box’ has chilling qualities and stock characters to make for a neat thriller if only it took flight more.

6.5/10

Assassination Nation (2018)

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When a film begins by rattling through a list of trigger warnings, you know you’re in for a wild ride and some aspects will likely sit uncomfortably with people making them #triggered, as the youths now say but if you can stomach everything from nasty slurs to torture then you won’t be disappointed.

In the town of Salem, four young friends share almost every secret. Lily (Odessa Young) has her own sordid private life which could become extremely public as a run of hacks hit the people of the town, from political figures to cheerleaders. It isn’t long until Salem is swept up by a hysteria and these four girls are its target.

Now, this visceral flick comments that it is a “1000% true story”, which it isn’t but the satirical elements which elevate to crazy heights could easily be perceived as based on true events what with the screen-obsessed world we currently live in. Sam Levinson, on only his second feature film is someone to watch because this is a bold, exploitative movie with a lot to say. There is a whole mound of style layered over the simple story of personal truths spilling over to be accessed information by all.

For a while this is a movie which looks like a red, white and blue tinged frat dream; almost a bubblegum start which greatly and swiftly pops like dynamite. It’s a revenge film ripe for our times, pumping with violence, social dramatics and a soundtrack which pulsates through you. It’s easy to say this is a film revelling in blood and shock but in fact it’s an engrossing cautionary tale of how affected by social media we are, how hear say is damaging and the struggles of what people expect of us can boil over. These themes are massively relevant and perfectly handled in a neat black comedy/thriller.

If you saw ‘Revenge’ earlier in the year, then this is a film that reminds you of the vengeful attack demonstrated by Coralie Fargeat. There’s a similar aggression soaking the narrative and amped up camera tricks and shots construct a blistering treat for the eyes. A smooth one-shot sequence which follows the red coated gals from outside a house is exceptional in terms of craft and building tension, more than this it works fantastically by making us voyeurs, the very people this film is right to judge.

It isn’t only voyeurism which is barbed, the fragile male ego from the outset is listed as an oncoming point for the film and this dangerous weapon is definitely shown off. On top of this there is the very real problem of mob mentality which is utilised within the later stages of the film and would do enough to scare off ‘The Purge’ inhabitants. These alarming issues are brilliantly opposed by the actors playing the teenage women. Odessa Young is front and centre and is a force to be reckoned with as she stands strong, even when torn apart by those around her.

Surely it’s no happy coincidence that Levinson sets this blood-fuelled story in Salem. The electrically charged events, mirror the witch trials from 326 years ago. The friends are damaged and headhunted by technology and townsfolk with no morals or thought process. Their own trial is as utterly useless to survive against unless they rise up. The female empowerment may be through thinly drawn characters but it’s evident and makes for a powerful final image before the credits appear.

‘Assassination Nation’ has some obvious story moments but there’s plenty of black humour and unsettling madness in a superb pulpy exhilarating show, one that wakes you up to the climate against women and rings social media alarm bells.

8/10