The year that was: Hits and misses from the world of cinema in 2018
Here's our list of the hits and misses from Hollywood, Bollywood, South Indian cinema and, of course, some outstanding Arabic works.
In this day and age of Netflix and streaming services, there is still something magical about buying yourself a cinema ticket, loading up on popcorn, nachos and soft drinks, and making your way into a dark theatre to sit back and be mesmerised as a whole new world comes alive before you. The year 2018 has, no doubt, given us some of the greatest movies ever and some that are not worth remembering in the years to come. Here's our list of the hits and misses from Hollywood, Bollywood, South Indian cinema and, of course, some outstanding Arabic works. Enjoy!
The good, the bad and the pug-ly
In keeping with the December tradition of evaluating the year gone past, we've decided to step in with our roundup of 2018's decent films you should have seen and those we all hope will be consigned to the 'never heard from again' vault, nuzzling up to the likes of Run For Your Wife and Pirates of the Caribbean 3. It hasn't been a classic year for cinema, although the five best movies were considerably easier to pick out than their terrible counterparts. We even (briefly) felt a little harsh including pug comedy Patrick in the list of stinkers, but read on to see our working.
First Man - 5 stars
Straight in at the top is the quite incredible First Man. We love stories of space travel at the best of times, but feel First Man is a once-in-a-generation picture. Not only does it accurately portray the terrifyingly dangerous bare bones approach to early orbiting flight, provoking a visceral, transfixing experience for any audience, it is also an intimately human story of an outwardly simple man and his wife overcoming their private grief whilst in the world's spotlight. Leads Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy turn in imperious performances.
Roma - 5 stars
Cinematically released elsewhere, but dropping on Netflix in the UAE a couple of days ago, Oscar-tipped Roma is a gilded monochrome tapestry of a film. Its luxurious shots seamlessly weave together to convey an immaculately natural story. If you have access to the streaming service, you have the privilege of inviting Roma into your life and spending a few hours with its characters. Director Alfonso Curon's labour of love, bringing to the screen a dense portrait of 1970s Mexico along with the travails of maid Cleo and her upper class employer Sofia, is a masterpiece.
Annihilation - 4 stars
Somewhat slipping under the radar, Natalie Portman's Annihilation was deemed too highbrow for many cinemagoers, so at the last minute was released on Netflix alongside its small US cinema run. Another science-fiction triumph from writer turned director Alex Garland, whose Ex Machina remains one our favourites, Annihilation sees Portman's Lena lead a group of soldiers to investigate alien habitat 'the Shimmer', which has decided to take up residence on Earth. Full of hybrid species and extreme/ dangerous bio-diversity, its true purpose for visiting our planet must be discovered, but with the lines between reality and delirium so blurred, will that be possible?
Searching - 4 stars
Searching one-hundred per cent came out of nowhere to become one of our top films of the year. Imagine turning your nose up at a movie's synopsis, not planning on seeing it, reluctantly being taken to a showing by a friend and quickly becoming so enraptured you had to see it again the next day. Having little to no interest in social media or video calls, the fact the entire movie relies on these platforms to tell its story and kept our attention is testament to its wonderful script. David Kim's daughter is, to him, a Grade A student, popular class member and dealing with the death of her mother in a mature manner. When she goes missing he has to trawl through her social media accounts to garner a clue. He discovers he has been living with a different person.
Black Panther - 4 stars
You know we don't enjoy superhero films all that much, but when producers go out there and do something a bit different, we're always going to give them a shot. Last year Wonder Woman and Thor: Ragnarok shared equal top spot in our affections; respectively bringing some much needed feminism and levity to their universes. 2018 was the year of Black Panther. Admittedly the plot wasn't all that different from the comic book films we find rather tedious and the special effects weren't always as slick as we would have expected, but these minor quibbles were greatly surpassed by the film's celebration of diversity and intense demeanour - not to mention tremendous performances from Chadwick Boseman and Danai Gurira.
Five of the worst movies
Robin Hood - 1 star
In much the same vein as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (which made last year's list) nobody asked for this film and, from the results, director Otto Bathurst shouldn't have bothered. A stylised cockney reboot of a franchise that has probably just about run its course is a trademark Guy Ritchie move and Robin Hood wholly appears to be a tribute to the British filmmaker, including the poor box office takings that were also in line with Richie's aforementioned Arthur. Hood's derivative dialogue and cinematography and the waste of its cast are the least of the movie's problems. It was simply utterly boring. The only element the Man in Tights stole in this picture was an afternoon we could have spent doing anything else.
The Happytime Murders - 1/2 star
The Muppets and Sesame Street mean so, so much to so many.but not us. At all. For us, they're merely socks on someone's hand. So when we were asked if we were willing to pay to see their legacy be trampled on in The Happytime Murders, it was a no brainer. We have absolutely no quibbles with the adult humour expressed in the film, nor the seedy motifs. Nope, The Happytime Murders makes this list because it did not provide a shred of originality. Every joke, routine or line had been done before and better somewhere else. Witnessing puppets being crass is not in itself funny, although was the only device employed. The film hinged on you finding a doll going about a toon town's underbelly and the explicitness therein amusing. It was not.
Patrick - 2 stars
We were umm-ing and ah-ing about Patrick for a while, because there is nothing inherently bad about it. If we were to catagorise the film in a word, it would be: 'blah'. Inoffensive, though completely devoid of edge, we're actually struggling to be biting ourselves, such is our apathy. If BBC TV series Fleabag completely reinvigorated the 'single-person, chaotic London lifestyle' genre, Patrick gave it a Xanax and told it to go lie down. Yes the titular pug is cute and does provide a few laughs with his silly face, but it wasn't enough to deliver the shot needed to make us care about how his new owner Sarah must adapt her tame. sorry.'crazy' routine in order to accommodate his spoilt ways.
Super Troopers 2 - 1 star
Just because a cause reaches its crowdfunding goal, doesn't necessarily dictate the project should get the go-ahead. We're sure donors to the Super Troopers 2 production kitty ($2million raised in 24 hours) would have been just as happy with the original cast doing a nationwide tour of town halls. Instead fans had to endure Super Troopers 2, besmirching the name of the 2001 original that was, let's face it, not that funny in the first place. How, even when spending free money, producers thought they could get away with reassembling a now old troupe of players and have them bungle about with a script that boiled down to a flimsy excuse to make fun of Canadians is beyond us.
Hunter Killer - 1 star
In short, we couldn't live with ourselves if we put together any list of terrible films and didn't include a Gerard Butler "classic". In fairness submarine drama Hunter Killer is better than 2017's Geostorm, but that's like saying Brexit is preferable to Donald Trump. We don't know why Butler is only capable of popping up in these B-movie rehashes, he was a practicing lawyer after all - he can definitely read the scripts. What's worrying when it comes to Hunter Killer, though, where he captains an American sub charged with rescuing the Russian President in hostile waters, is that he may have thought it had potential. To invoke torpedo-launching jargon: miss.
Hits from the Arabic world
Here's our list of Arabic movies that stood out in 2018.
This 2018 Lebanese drama film took home the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival while receiving a standing ovation after it was screened at the prestigious event. Directed by Nadine Labaki, Capernaum tells the story of Zain (Zain Al Rafeea), a 12-year-old Lebanese boy who sues his parents for the 'crime' of giving him life. The story follows Zain, a street smart child as he runs away from home, survives through the streets, takes care of an Ethiopian refugee Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw) and her baby son, Yonas (Boluwatife Treasure Bankole), is jailed for a crime, and finally, seeks justice in a courtroom. The movie was chosen to represent Lebanon in the Oscars under the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Road to Istanbul
Another movie that's vying for top honours in Best Foreign Language Film category, Road to Istanbul depicts the plight of a mother whose only daughter goes to Syria to join the war in the country. Elisabeth's life is turned upside down while she is shocked and fails to understand why 20-year-old Elodie decided to take up a cause that has nothing to do with them or their country. Elisabeth decides to go to the war zone to look for her daughter and persuade her to come back with her
Mohamed Ben Attia's movie is about parental love and responsibility that continues even after the kids are all grown up. The story revolves around Riadh, who is about to retire from his job as a forklift operator in Tunis. Both he and his wife Nazli's lives revolve around their only son Sami who is preparing for his school exams. However, Sami's repeated migraine attacks are a cause of concern to his parents. Just when Sami seems to be getting better, he mysteriously disappears. Riadh then sets out on a journey to find his son only to discover some deep secrets about son.
Director Basel Al-Khatib's award-winning acclaimed film Damascus.Aleppo stars veteran Syrian actor Duraid Lahham, Abdel Moneim Ameiri, Salma El-Masry, and Kende Hanna. The story takes place on a bus journey where passengers from different social backgrounds and mindsets come together, reflecting society with its diversity and social pluralism. The satirical comedy film highlights how the destinies of people from different backgrounds become interlaced.
The Last of Us
Tunisian director Ala Eddine Slim's award-winning movie has no dialogues. The story tracks a Sub-Saharan man who dreams of acquiring a boat and sailing off to Europe. So he leaves his home and travels across the desert to Tunis where he is cheated by human smugglers. Not willing to abandon his dream, he somehow manages to gets his hands on a boat and sets sail, but to his misfortune he ends up stranded in a mysterious forest where he is confronted by a silent old hermit . The Last of Us reflects the journey of a refugee or a mythical search for all those people who don't survive the arduous journey. The movie was chosen to represent Tunisia at the Oscars as best foreign-language film.
Best of Bollywood in 2018
This year will go down as a memorable one for the Hindi film industry. Women-centric movies did well at the box office while the Khans failed to impress and talented actors like Rajkummar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte, Taapsee Pannu, Pankaj Tripathi and Vicky Kaushal, amongst others, managed to gain mainstream recognition. A veteran couple's (Neena Gupta and Gajraj Rao) tale in Badhaai Ho became the favourite love story of the nation. Here's our take on the hits and misses of the year.
This movie boldly highlighted a subject that's not often seen on Indian screens. The story is about a middle-class family struggling to accept a middle-aged mother's late pregnancy. Neena Gupta and Gajaraj Rao portray the characters of a helpless couple who have to face the wrath of their grown-up kids when they announce the pregnancy. These senior actors take centerstage as they try to figure out how to be compassionate when everyone around them is deriding them for bringing 'shame' to the family. Their love and affection for each other makes it the most heartwarming watch of the year. With crackling dialogues and clean comedy, Badhaai Ho left us teary-eyed in many scenes.
ALSO READ: KRK's take on Bollywood 2018
Taapsee Pannu's turn as Rumi in this film impressed us. She plays a woman who is not afraid of going after what she wants in life, even if it's 'wrong' from the perspective of society and her family. She plays a rebel without a cause, a carefree spirit who elopes with her lover only to return home disappointed. Heartbroken, she then marries a 'refined man', but cheats on him. She does anything that pleases her. "I don't want to blame anyone for whatever happens in my life. I want to be responsible for all my happiness and regrets" is a line Geet from Jab We Met narrates before eloping. And this line reflects Rumi's life too.
Stree takes us into an Utopian world where men are afraid of venturing out after midnight because a female ghost might kidnap them. This ghost could very well be a role model for society as she believes in consent. She only abducts men who turn around when she calls them and if they look into her eyes, which would mean that they have given her consent. Rajkummar Rao plays a small-town boy known by the moniker 'Chanderi ka Manish Malhotra', a tailor who has the knack of registering a woman's measurements simply by looking at her. He is the one who dares to face the ghost. This horror story went on to become the favourite laugh riot of 2018. We cannot wait for the sequel!
After being in the making for more than five years, Tumbbad finally released on the big screen leaving the audiences stumped because of the way it combined mythology with real life. This film tells the story of a family who have cursed wealth stashed away in their ancestral home. The rain-soaked settings and the creepy ancestral house will grab your attention right away. If a horror flick has the capacity to distract you from your surroundings and take you into a scary world of its own, then the film has served its purpose. And Tumbbad did just that!
Director Sriram Raghavan successfully brought Tabu, Ayushmann Khurrana, Anil Dhawan, Radhika Apte, a cat and a rabbit together in the most crackling thriller of this year. The story of a blind pianist who witnesses a murder kept us on the edge-of-our-seats for the entire duration of the film. With the success of this film and Badhaai Ho, Ayushmann has now become the most successful star of 2018.
Alia Bhatt and Meghna Gulzar teamed up for one of the most engaging films of the year. Alia showcases a range of roles - as she plays a simple, dutiful Indian daughter who is forced to marry a Pakistani man and spy for her country. This was the first patriotic film from Bollywood that did not follow the 'rules of a regular Bollywood patriotic film'. In fact, the audience ended up sympathising more with the Pakistani family. Alia portrayed the strongest female lead of the year with her vulnerable turn as Sehmat. Kudos to Alia for a fabulous performance.
Veere Di Wedding
Veere Di Wedding is the story of four girls with their own problems and individual points of views. Unlike typical chick flicks from Bollywood, the characters are neither fighting over the same guy nor shouting slogans of feminism from the rooftops. It kind of felt liberating to see Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania take on the world clad in their designer-best as they navigate the world.
The talented Anushka Sharma produced and acted in the horror thriller Pari. The main premise of the story is about a witch who falls in love with a man. Though the movie was problematic because of its length and love triangle, we think it was a bold attempt for the actress to jump into unexplored territory. Hope she comes up with more such flicks in 2019.
The year started with the release of Padmaavat starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, and Shahid Kapoor. This was the story of Sultan Alauddin Khilji's pursuit of the most beautiful Indian woman Rani Padmavati. The movie portrays his obsession with attaining the women he desires. The rich costumes, spectacular war scenes and Ranveer's scene-stealing acts made it one of the most visually stunning films of the year, despite the controversies the movie attracted before its release.
Varun Dhawan delivered his most powerful performance ever in this film. The story revolves around the idea that you truly live your life when you live for others. Varun plays a character who gets completely engulfed in the life of his colleague after she slips into a coma following a mishap. This film conveys the message of grief, love, and togetherness through its silence. Varun is known to do masala, entertainer movies, and it was absolutely refreshing to see him explore the meditative mood of the movie and bringing forward the idea of loving someone without wanting anything in return.
Movies that missed the mark
The second film of Anil Kapoor's son Harshvardhan Kapoor (he made his debut with Mirzya in 2016) was expected to do well specially considering it was being helmed by Vikramaditya Motwane, the filmmaker who gave us such thought-provoking movies like Udaan and Lootera. Not to forget he is the name behind Netflix's biggest Hindi series Sacred Games. However the vigilante movie starring the young Kapoor failed to take off at the box-office. Reportedly made at a cost of around Rs25 crores, it raked in according to reports Rs1.46 crores only. Was it the result of an ambitious screenplay, a lead actor who didn't have a proven track record or pure bad luck? Nobody knows.
Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety
In director Luv Ranjan's world, every woman is selfish, manipulative and greedy for money and their only goal is to be with a rich man. Even in his past movies, like Pyaar Ka Punchnama and its sequel, his prejudice against women shows. This film is deeply problematic. The story revolves around Kartik Aaryan's character who is trying to break up his best friend's marriage because he believes that the woman is a fraud. The movie made us feel uncomfortable and we hardly laughed, but it turns out that the audience loved it, making it one of the biggest hits of the year.
Race 3 was one of the biggest films of the year with a muli-starrer cast that included Salman Khan, Jacqueline Fernandes, Bobby Deol and Anil Kapoor. The Race franchise usually shows rich and gorgeous people backstabbing each other, but in the case of Race 3, it had disappointment written all over.
Thugs of Hindostan
This movie did not take off as per expectations considering that this was the first time we were seeing the super talents of Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan coming together on the screen. The audiences were not too pleased with the film and even the actors came out and apologised for failing expectations in subsequent interviews.
Batti Gul Meter Chalu
The story highlights the problem of inflated electricity bills and how it affects the common man in rural India. The premise was good but the movie was a bit stretched. Though the movie fell short of expectations, nevertheless it was appreciated for shining the spotlight on an important issue faced by rural India.
South Indian movies of note in 2018
From low-budget feel good movies to big-budget epic stories, South Indian cinema came up with a bumper crop of films to regale the discerning audiences this year.
Sudani from Nigeria
Zakaria Mohammed's Sudani from Nigeria proved that all a movie needs to be a runaway hit is a good script and fine actors. Starring Soubin Shahir and a young actor from Nigeria (Samuel Robinson) in lead roles, the feel-good film revolves around a local football tournament in Malappuram. The critically acclaimed film narrates the travails of refugees in a foreign country.
The Amal Neerad film starring Fahadh Faasil and Aishwarya Lekshmi is about how a couple copes with voyeurs in Kerala. It also realistically portrays how life changes after the couple survives after a job loss and return to their base and deal with different types of challenges. The film is co-produced by Nazriya Nazim.
The Ranjith Shankar film stars Jayasurya who plays a transsexual called Marykutty. The actor has undergone a great transformation to show us the kind of violations such a person has to deal with on a daily basis.
Starring Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha, the movie 96 revolves around childhood sweethearts and how they reunite after several years at a reunion. The movie strikes a chord owing to the sense of nostalgia it evokes in moviegoers.
The biopic of yesteryear actress Savitri had Keerthy Suresh in the lead. It was released in Telugu as Mahanati. The film also had a host of others in the cast, including Dulquer Salmaan, Vijay Deverakonda and Samantha. The movie focuses on how the actress goes through a lot of distress in her marital life and eventually dies because of her alcoholism.
Anjali Menon's Koode stood out for its stellar cast of Prithviraj, Parvathy and Nazriya Nazim, who made an acting comeback after her marriage. Like Bangalore Days, the movie deals with the intricacies of relationships, but on a more serious note. The lead characters' nuanced performances along with a strong script ensured the movie stood out despite unfavourable comparisons with Menon's previous hit Bangalore Days.
Rosshan Andrrews' period film starring Nivin Pauly works sheerly for its grand scale and the efforts put in by the crew. Mohanlal's cameo as Ithikkara Pakki, Nivin's mentor in the film, was note-worthy and drew in the superstar's fans, without taking away the spotlight from the protagonist. Nivin easily adapts from his previous romantic avatars into a 19th century character in this film.
Ad maker Shrikumar Menon's directorial debut created a lot of hype pre-release on how it was the most expensive Malayalam film ever made. However, the plot lets down the legendary actor Mohanlal, who has given his best as a shape-shifting protagonist. The movie also suffered at the hands of online trolls, just a few hours into its release.
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