It’s been a particularly divisive year in Hollywood. We’ve witnessed more superhero hijinks than most can stomach (‘Avengers: Infinity War’, ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’, ‘Deadpool ‘2), the return of the glorious rom-com (‘Set It Up’, ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’) and several wins for diversity on the big screen (‘Black Panther’, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’). We take a look at the best and worst of this year’s buzzworthy movies.
HITS OF 2018
A Quiet Place
A masterpiece that transcended genre, ‘A Quiet Place’ was built on a simple, post-apocalyptic premise: what if the most minuscule sounds (footsteps, laughter, a toy rocket) triggered an onslaught of bloodthirsty creatures? The film held steady at a tense simmer, and the cast, led by real-life couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, elevated every scene with emotion. Blunt, in particular, knocked it right out of the park, moving us to tears with her pivotal bathtub scene.
Crazy Rich Asians
Dubbed a watershed moment for Hollywood, this touching adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s eponymous romcom novel, which follows a professor and her secretly wealthy boyfriend to an extravagant wedding in Singapore, forced Hollywood to shed its homogenous casting choices, and put an Asian-American and Asian-Brit in the lead.
Black Panther was a dream come true for nerds of colour — a slice of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that wasn’t majority white or done-to-death. Set to a powerful soundtrack, the movie made a killing both critically and at the box office. The women of the Dora Milaje alone were worth half-a-dozen re-watches. And, keeping in mind valid subsequent critiques of what the movie considers ‘good’ and ‘evil’, Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan made for compelling on-screen adversaries. #WakandaForever
A Star Is Born
Directed by Bradley Cooper, and starring himself and Lady Gaga as star-crossed lovers, ‘A Star Is Born’ notes a return to old-fashioned, epic storytelling that’s big on romance and gooey feelings. Bradley Cooper is Jackson Maine, a weathered musician who falls for the spotlight-shy singer Ally (Lady Gaga). It’s an unlikely duo but the chemistry is off the charts and your heart goes out to the couple fighting against all the odds. This one’s a solid tear-jerker.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
This was the kind of fresh, innovative storytelling we need if we ever wanted to break through superhero movie fatigue. Visual highjinks aside, the film tells a really important story for our times, tied together neatly with a post-film dedication to Spider-Man’s original creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko: Anybody can be a hero, just make that first leap of faith.
FLOPS OF 2018
While Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s films were not entirely perfect, ‘Ocean’s 8’, despite its talented and easy-on-the-eye cast, steals all the soul out of a fun heist flick, owing mostly to an awful script and a predictable plot. While we’re all in for the Ghostbusteresque gender-flip, and as hard as we tried to enjoy this movie, the writing room was clearly intent on letting us down. Give this one a miss if you don’t want to think any less of your female role models.
Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald
With all due respect, JK Rowling should stick to writing books and stop her screenwriting duties at once if this franchise wants to flourish in it’s five-film-long future. Apart from a confusing script that panders to hard-core fans and hard-core fans only, issues like racial tokenism, straight-washing and cultural appropriation stand out starkly, dampening some of the magic of the Wizarding World. Also, it’s not too late to fire Johnny Depp, is it?
The more popular Jennifer Lawrence gets, the less appealing her movies become. In ‘Red Sparrow’, the once promising starlet stoically brings to life the story of prima ballerina Dominika Egorova, who, after a debilitating accident, is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. While all the ingredients for a high thrills spy movie seems to be in place, the movie ends up as a limp excuse of a thing, neither provocative nor intelligent. Peter Travers of Rolling Stones said it best: “There’s more exciting spycraft in 10 minutes of ‘The Americans’ than you’ll find in the entirety of this turgid twaddle.”
Starring Taron Egerton in the titular role, this Otto Bathurst directed movie is perhaps the most ill-advised project to have seen the light of day this year. While in all earnestness, the makers tried to give this old action adventure tale a more current spin, what it actually did was create a spectacle sans any of the thrills.
Gotti — John Travolta’s little passion project — was quickly dubbed by critics as the “worst mob movie ever”. The production suffered several delays due to clashes between creatives and the various studios that took the film on, and when it finally hit theatres, Gotti was a certified hot mess.