For this year's end-of-year list, we're going in a all-new direction.
This year, instead of just the customary single, totalitarian list, we asked all our critics - that's Deidre Molumby, Stacy Grouden, James W. Anderson and Brian Lloyd - to send in their 10 choices for the best movies of 2018.
Obviously, with four distinct personalties and personal tastes, you're going to have some cross overs and some left-of-field choices. But, like you, the entertainment.ie reader, you've got distinct personalities and personal tastes all of your own.
So, to the list. We kick things off with...
DEIRDRE MOLUMBY, STAFF WRITER
Spike Lee earned a lot of praise for his latest and deservedly so. Historical and yet contemporary, it's a cop movie with action, comedy, and an important social commentary all packed in together. It has a number of memorable cinematic moments that stay with you, such as the illuminated faces of black students at a rally, and an elder activist's story of witnessing a lynching.
Hopes were super high for the rejuvenation of the 'Halloween' franchise. Thankfully it did not disappoint. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Stribe in this direct sequel to the original 1978 horror. Set 40 years later, Laurie is still traumatised from the night Michael Myers murdered her friends and tried to kill her. Now he's back. 'Halloween' 2018 perfectly balances nostalgia with genuine fear factor, no easy task.
The shock and overwhelming emotion inspired by the ending to 'Avengers: Infinity War' warrants its inclusion here alone. It is the first of two superhero movies that this reviewer has chosen for her best movies of 2018. Thus for all the complaints that the genre has nothing new to offer, this would seem to not be the case.
The concept and trailer for this movie looks bats**t crazy. I mean, it's about Spider-Men from various universes joining forces. And yet, the film is fantastic on a number of levels. It is funny, moving, innovative and effortlessly cool. The animation is totally unique and stunning in its kaleidoscope effect. It may be a cartoon, but this is far from limited to kids.
'Sorry to Bother You' is one of those films that it's best to go into knowing as little as possible and enjoying the ride. Suffice to say that it is absolutely nuts - set in an alternate, surrealist, dystopian, parallel reality - very funny and thought-provoking. Its star-filled cast includes Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews, Danny Glover, Steven Yeun and Armie Hammer.
'Isle of Dogs' is so layered and detailed that you'll genuinely get something new out of it with every viewing. The animation is extraordinary, bringing what Wes Anderson did with 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' to another level. Its canine cast is a delight and hearing the likes of Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, and Jeff Goldblum, to name a few, bringing the mutts to life is a treat. It's just a thoroughly lovely film.
Frank Berry previously tackled the challenging topic of suicide in 'I Used to Live Here.' He focusses here again social realism and issues after Irish youths. The film follows an 18 year old Dubliner who is caught holding drugs for his friend's big brother and sentenced to 3 months in prison. Its portrayal of prison life feels far more authentic than its Hollywood contemporaries. As for the ending, it will leave you shook.
This reviewer's first five-star review of the year went deservedly to the Charlize Theron-starrer 'Tully'. In spite of Theron's name attached to it, and the writer-director team of 'Juno' being behind it, it came and went in cinemas without getting much attention. However, if you ever want to see the truest portrayal of motherhood and its challenges ever produced, this is unmissable.
Another film of Irish interest on our top 10 is 'Lady Bird', which Saoirse Ronan earned an Oscar nod for. Set in 2002, it follows the title character's final year at school in Sacramento, California. Full of heart and humour, 'Lady Bird' is populated by a plethora of winsome characters. Watching the film is an emotional experience as you relive your own last year of school as you watch it.
It may be the fourth time around for the story but Bradley Cooper's take on 'A Star is Born' is magnificent. The music is deeply moving, the story heart-breaking, the performances full of truth and feeling. It deserves all the Oscars come the season - Best Film, Director, Leading Actors, Best Song. This is the new definitive Hollywood story.
JAMES W. ANDERSON, MOVIE CRITIC
Setting historical accuracy aside, Spike Lee is back on form with this wry look at American politic culture. Melding visual riffs from diametrically opposed films like ‘Shaft’ and ‘Triumph of the Will’ it’s a film school students wet dream.
Incredibly tight with a top-notch cast. McQueen really grounds this heist movie to fully realised characters. Shame they didn’t keep the haircuts from the TV show.
The best Cage performances since 'Bad Lieutenant' and well worth waiting for. A great synth soundtrack and Lynch-like horror throughout really makes this stand out. Also, CHAINSAW DUEL.
Building on the themes of the first film and taking them to some logical conclusion. A worthy successor and a white-knuckle thriller.
'Avengers' made it onto the list for me on sheer spectacle alone. If you didn’t cry finding out Groot was saying “dad” at the end, well, you are a monster and dead inside.
Sharp satire aimed at the Fully Automated Luxury Communism generation. Its got everything you want from ‘Black Mirror’ cranked up to 11 and with a better soundtrack.
Throwback anthology horror taking all its beats from ‘Tales from the Crypt’ and ‘The Vault of Horror’ updated for modern tastes. Good clean fun.
This one has crawled under my skin. There is just something about the pacing and the internal logic of the film that just gives it a haunting presence. A true original.
Revisionist revenge western set in Ireland during the Famine, I was sold on the concept alone. Hugely cathartic and gripping throughout.
Takes the haunted house genre and inverts the concept to make a Freudian nightmare on the British class system and personal obsessions. A must see for fans of ‘The Innocence’ and ‘The Haunting’.
STACY GROUDEN, MOVIE CRITIC
Has there ever been a better sixth installment of a franchise film than 'Mission Impossible: Fallout'? Explosively fun, well-paced, and intricately-plotted without ever sacrificing its stunningly kinetic action scenes, 'Fallout' is among the best in the entire series.
The adage goes, never work with children or animals, unless they’re animated and written by Wes Anderson. This charming and earnest tale of a boy and his (search for his) dog is elevated by the strong, deeply funny vocal performances of an all-star cast and Anderson’s characteristically quirky humour.
8. '120 BPM'
Making the political personal and the personal political, '120 BM' chronicles AIDS activism in 1990s Paris, focusing in on the relationship between two men in the thick of it all. Emotive and impassioned but never cheaply sentimental, Robin Campillo’s film is vibrant, rousing and heart-stopping.
Ethan Hawke has never been better than as Reverend Ernst Toller, a man haunted by holy and unholy spirits alike as he presides over a New York church. Toller’s quiet desperation throughout, attempting to offer a level of spiritual guidance and solace that he struggles to feel himself, is one of the most captivating performances of 2018.
What if this *is* the best version of a coming-of-age tale about a girl from the wrong side of the tracks in middle America? Saoirse Ronan – in the titular role – is glorious: fully-formed, funny and smart without ever feeling too precocious or over-written.
5. 'Cold War'
Paweł Pawlikowski's follow-up to 'Ida' traces the on-again, off-again love story of a singer and musical director in 1950s Poland. Featuring unforgettable, starkly-beautiful cinematography and a haunting folksy soundtrack, the political backdrop beautifully complements the central relationship for a quietly-affecting human drama.
Psychedelic and hallucinatory, with some of the craziest and most exciting fight scenes in years, revenge thriller Mandy is one of the most unique cinematic experiences of 2018. Come for Nicolas Cage lighting a cigarette off a flaming severed head, stay for Linus Roache’s horrifying cult leader Jeremiah Sand.
A dark, stylish reimagining of a 1990s-style heist caper, a very different first wives' club of Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, and Michelle Rodriguez band together to settle their late husbands' debts to a local crime boss. Steve McQueen’s characteristic style brings an extra level of intensity to a delightfully twisty thriller.
Mamma Mia, here we go again - it's the best musical drama of the year in the form of the fourth adaptation of this modern Hollywood fairytale. Almost at the top of my list for best movies of 2018, 'A Star is Born' is a beautifully-handled love story, brought fully to life by the chemistry between leads Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga; while the build to the chorus of 'Shallow' as Gaga's Ally visibly and audibly grows in confidence in real time is still the most electrifying scene of 2018.
All is not as it seems in the relationship between an eccentric English dressmaker and his latest muse. Their power struggle plays out both verbally and visually, in a film delicately laced with deliciously dark comedy and occasional morbid melancholy. Featuring three incredible lead performances and the most memorable breakfast scenes since 'Citizen Kane', 'Phantom Thread' is an intimate masterpiece.
BRIAN LLOYD, MOVIES EDITOR
Who'd have thought John Krasinski could make one of the most effective horrors of the year, much less star in it as well? Working with a tightly-knitted script and a fascinating premise, Krasinski unfurls his gothic tale of a world gone silent with panache and style that marks him out as a talented director with a bright career ahead of him. There might be a plot hole or two that'll niggle you afterwards, but this is a really well-made horror.
Scott Cooper's sombre Western moves at a near-glacial pace and never quite sits well with itself, but there really is something deeply beautiful and haunting about 'Hostiles'. Christian Bale underplays his role as a vicious US officer who harbours a deep resentment of Native Americans, particularly Wes Studi's dying war chief whom he has been tasked with escorting back to his lands to die. It's grim stuff, sure, but it's utterly captivating.
If for nothing else, that cliffhanger alone earns its place on this list. The Snap was this generation's 'Empire Strikes Back' moment, and it came at the hands of Josh Brolin's terrifying presence as Thanos. Juggling the amount of characters, the varying tones from movie to movie, 'Infinity War' was a blockbuster that took glee in building up to its ending.
Yes, it was somewhat trite and tidy in its storytelling. Yes, it was about a woman falling in love with a fish monster. But still, you can't deny that 'The Shape Of Water' wore its big fish heart on its sleeve and was going right for yours in every scene. Who else but Sally Hawkins could make the idea of a cleaning lady falling in love with a fish monster seem not only seem believable, but emotionally resonant?
Lynne Ramsay's sharp, vicious neo-noir thriller saw Joaquin Phoenix give one of his most unsettling performances to date and reminded us of what an extraordinary talent he is with such minute actions and choices. A chilling but brutally efficient story about a kidnapped child, Phoenix lumbers around each scene with wild eyes and white knuckles across a bloodied hammer. Disturbing.
Imagine if Chuck Jones was told to make a Spider-Man movie. You're somewhere on the way to figuring out 'Into The Spider-Verse'. It's an animated movie that so fully embraces its medium, but also the very nature of itself. There's been dozens of Spider-Men through the years, audiences are bored - how do you change that up and make it unique? You put them all together on one screen and wait to see what happens. It's utterly bonkers, and best experienced going in blind.
Leaving aside the fact that Tom Cruise is just a few short years off a pension and he's still literally throwing himself off buildings for our collective amusement and entertainment, 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' is a shining example of considered and artful action direction from a master of the genre. Christopher McQuarrie not only knows how to pace, shoot and edit action, but he knows how to write it so that it all makes sense. Henry Cavill's franchise-destroying moustache aside, every single part of 'Fallout' works in lock-step rhythm towards its breathless conclusion. High up there with some of the finest action movies ever made and definitely one of the best movies of 2018.
Aside from being one of the best movies of 2018, 'Michael Inside' is, quite simply, required viewing for people of Ireland. We as a nation so often choose to ignore what's right under our noses because it's easier than looking at it. Frank Berry's direction and writing never forces you into looking at it, but instead offers a humane and compassionate insight into a world that is ignored by the rest of us. Made with care and diligence, 'Michael Inside' is a powerful indictment of masculinity, the criminal justice system, and the very nature of forgiveness and consequence.
They say that the more precise and intimate you get with something, the more it appeals to everyone and makes sense to everyone. With Saoirse Ronan's precocious teenager and Greta Gerwig's masterful direction, 'Lady Bird' becomes a wondrously moving but never mawkish story about forming a person when you think you already know who you are. There are so many moments that resonate out from the screen and hit you under the rib-cage, either because you lived it yourself or you knew someone who went through it. Seeing it all up on screen, for both the world and you to laugh at, is a rare and precious gift.
Where to start with 'Mandy' and Nicholas Cage's powerhouse performance in it? If the Oscars wasn't the cloyingly obvious, disgustingly predictable meat parade that we all know it to be and the voting pools weren't the cowards we know them to be, they'd hand him the Academy Award for Best Actor based on what he does in 'Mandy'. That's not hyperbole, either. Cage is electric in every scene of this movie, and is throwing every bit of himself into it. Sure, he's an all-or-nothing kind of actor, but when it's focused in the way that it is here, with Panos Cosmatos' direction and writing guiding him, it transcends the usual criticisms of Cage's work. He is raw, vulnerable and wounded in a way that completely couches the ensuing violence in an believable, emotional context.
The visuals are out of this world and fit so perfectly with the odyssey of violence he sets off on, and the sadly departed Jóhann Jóhannsson's doom metal score rips across the the top. A blood-soaked masterpiece that can only be truly enjoyed in a dark cinema with the speakers cranked to their loudest.