Balanced Web-Spinner – Spider-Man: Far From Home

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Following up the successful first collaboration between Columbia/Sony and Marvel (Spider-Man: Homecoming), the cosmic hugeness of Avengers: Endgame  and the culmination of Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe always promised to be a tricky task, but returning director Jon Watts and returning scriptwriters Chris McKenna & Eric Sommers have managed a pretty balanced movie that nicely answers all those demands.

Set eight months after half of humanity was restored to existence in Avengers: Endgame (now referred to as The Blip), the film wastes no time showing us some of the ramifications of this but also throws us headlong into a plot which, by necessity, has to stretch out more broadly than Homecoming’s friendly neighbourhood feel.

Terrifying giant creatures, Elementals, have seemingly crossed over into our world from another reality and, while attempting to enjoy a summer class vacation through Europe and engage with a blossoming relationship with MJ, Peter Parker is pulled into battling these monsters by a heroic newcomer, soon named Mysterio.

With Tony Stark no longer around, Mysterio becomes a mentor figure to Peter, but all is not quite as it first appears and events soon spiral out of our young hero’s control – both in and out of his webby mask.

Jake Gyllenhall’s Quentin Beck (a.k.a. Mysterio) works well against Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, in an arc which nicely defines Peter coming to terms with loss, while underlining his constant struggles with responsibility from a fresh angle. And while the resolution of this arc might be one of the film’s weaker moments, there is still a great deal to savour.

In terms of character development, the high-point of the film is undoubtedly Peter and MJ’s romance. Zendaya’s MJ is a real treat; snarky, goofy and vulnerable, and I could happily watch an entire movie of her and Holland just playing off against each other.

Holland is, it almost goes without saying, a pretty much perfect Peter Parker, beautifully playing the push and pull the character feels between his heroic responsibilities and his teenage life, continuing to make him highly relatable.

The actions sequences are excellent, the climax in the centre of London is one of the best Spider-man set pieces since Spider-Man 2’s train battle ( I saw the film in 3D, which really enhanced this sequence), and the film balances action, drama and (a great deal of) humour deftly, giving it a distinct feel while still integrating it firmly into the MCU.

It’s a superb summer movie, and a lot of fun (often mischievously so), even if a certain amount of Homecoming’s down to earth charm has been sacrificed.

Do make sure you stay through the end credits, as one of the two stings brings not only a wonderful cameo (particularly for long-time Spider-Man movie fans) but a pretty seismic cliffhanger for Spider-Man’s status quo.

The best thing about the film is that it makes you want to spend more time caught up in Spider-Man’s web and in the company of these characters, so bring on Spider-Man: Home From Home, Home Run, Home Sweet Home, or even Don’t Try This At Home

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Marvel Phase 4 – Black Widow Begins Filming In Norway (English Language Exclusive)

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Blue Bayou – the shooting title adopted by Marvel for the production of the first movie in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow, has begun filming here in Norway.

The unit production base has established itself in the small village of Sæbø, in Sunnmøre on the western coast of Norway. The Sagafjord Hotel was overrun with a fleet of trucks as rumours first exploded locally that this was filming for the latest James Bond film (which is actually also shooting here, not too far away on The Atlantic Road and in Rauma, slightly further north in the region).

Per Henry Borch, line producer for Truenorth, the production and service company, confirmed to NRK that the film wasn’t Bond 25 in an effort to stop interested fans swarming to the site, obviously not considering that there might also be plenty of Johansson or Marvel fans ready to make the trip.

But your roving reporter can confirm that trucks, equipment and local signs are festooned with the legend Blue Bayou, revealed back in February as the shooting title for Scarlett Johansson’s first solo outing as Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow.

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Local newspapers are suggesting that Sæbø and nearby Bondalen (oh, the irony) are standing in for Romanoff’s childhood home in Russia.

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Shooting titles are often used to deter curious onlookers for location shooting and Marvel Studios productions have recently used covers including Mary Lou (Avengers: Infinity War/Avengers: Endgame), Open World (Captain Marvel), and Bosco (Spider-Man: Far From Home).

Crewmembers at the base remained tight-lipped and impervious to my requests for the movie’s entire plot-line, but filming will continue throughout the week. Production of the film is based at Pinewood Studios in the UK (as seen in the exclusive photos here), while the film is being directed by Cate Shortland from a script by Jac Schaeffer (Captain Marvel, the forthcoming Vision & Scarlet Witch TV series).

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No official release date has been given for Black Widow, but you can be sure you’ll be updated on these pages.

Avengers: Endgame Makes ALL The Money With A $1.2 Billion Weekend

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As predicted here on Out Of Dave’s Head (though I’ll grant you I didn’t really need a crystal ball), Avengers: Endgame has blasted off with a record-breaking $1.2 billion opening weekend take at the worldwide box office.

Marvel’s astonishing experiment in long-form storytelling has smashed the year-old Avengers: Infinity War records by nearly $100 million in the U.S. and a jaw-dropping $560 million worldwide.

The 22nd movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which launched in 2008 with Iron Man, has seen the linked multi-franchises bring home more than $19 billion in worldwide box office to date, and with a whole slate of films lined up for the forthcoming Phase 4, that figure seems likely to grow.

The much-discussed “superhero fatigue” that critics love to load onto these films seems to be pretty non-existent when it comes to Marvel movies, possibly because their release plans are carefully thought out and almost certainly because the films are far from the cookie-cutter exercises those same, lazy critics write them off as.

Long-form cinematic storytelling is certainly nothing new, of course, having been around since at least 1912, with Edison’s What Happened to Mary, before finding huge popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with the likes of Flash Gordon, Spy Smasher and The Adventures of Captain Marvel (or Shazam! as he’s now known). 

And movie sequels have been around forever, but were generally regarded as poor relations to the source material and usually awarded declining budgets and box office receipts (the original Planet of the Apes films, for example).

Star Wars and its subsequent offerings have done much to pave the way for this latest iteration, with the linked trilogies of the Skywalker saga we’ve had since 1977. But Marvel have taken this to a truly intriguing new level, launching a number of different franchises which link to form one longer narrative. Story strands, character arcs and thematic resolutions occur in Avengers: Endgame which have carried through from that first Iron Man movie in 2008. Carrying these elements across a franchise is one thing, but to test audiences with knowledge needed across multiple franchises really is quite brave for a studio, and something Marvel should be lauded for.

And while Spider-Man: Far From Home, released in July, sees Marvel’s Phase 3 come to a conclusion, the as-yet unannounced slate of Phase 4 films is likely to include Black Panther 2, Doctor Strange 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 (happily with James Gunn reinstated), the long-promised Black Widow movie, a likely return for Captain Marvel and debuts for Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu (directed by Destin Daniel Cretton) and The Eternals (helmed by The Rider‘s Chloe Zhao, and rumoured to be starring Angelina Jolie). And those are just the productions we know of, Marvel are sure to have some surprises up their sleeves.

So as Marvel sit back and prepare to work their accountants hard in the coming weeks, rest assured that we’ll likely be giving our hard-earned money to the company for some time to come.

And personally, if they continue to make films as engaging, enjoyable and emotional as these have been, I’ll be very happy to do so.

This Is The End! Avengers: Endgame* *spoiler-free review

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This is, without a doubt, the hardest review I’ve ever had to write, because in order to keep it spoiler-free, there’s really very little I can tell you.

Certainly, in terms of specifics I’m going to tell you absolutely nothing, because the film will work even more effectively if you go in cold. Suffice to say if you’ve seen any of the trailers, you know nothing, Jon Snow!

So, let’s keep this general: directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, left the universe in a much-reduced place this time last year – cosmic villain Thanos (father of Gamora and Nebula, from the Guardians of the Galaxy films) achieved his aim to place the Infinity Stones in his gauntlet, snapped his fingers and wiped out half the population of the universe in an instant. The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, lost.

Avengers: Endgame picks up some twenty-plus days later, the remaining heroes split asunder in different corners of the galaxy, in bad places both geographically and emotionally.

What happens next is, quite simply, astonishing. The structure of the (three hour long and not a dull moment) film is continually surprising: the first thirty incredibly intense minutes arguably take the story where you might have expected the entire film to go, and then you’re left with two and a half hours of some of the most bravura narrative you’re likely to see in a franchise movie for a long time.

That the film acts as a total summation of Marvel Studios’ bold and innovative, ten year, interconnected, multi-franchise, long form storytelling is perhaps no surprise: this is where we, and the characters, have been heading all along. But the sheer level of smarts on display is something to be admired.

Because the story is concluded so satisfyingly should not however, lull you into thinking this is an easy ride. The fact we’ve had so long to become attached to these characters means that Marvel pull out all the stops to put the audience through an emotional wringer: I can honestly say I lost count of the amount of times I cried, but I can tell you there were tears of both sadness and joy.

I sat with a goofy grin on my face, with tears of pure happiness streaming down my face, at the audaciousness of the penultimate forty-five minutes. And in the last fifteen minutes the real tears began. To be clear, the film left me a total wreck.

This unrestrained emotional response is a testimony to the genuine skill not only of the storytellers, but also of the actors. I’m sure it would be so very easy to coast through roles like these, but there isn’t a single moment where the cast aren’t completely in the moment.

There is a strand, an emotional arc involving Thor, where the balance between comedy and pathos strains to tip too far in one direction, but Chris Hemsworth manages to keep things just in check.

There might also be an argument to be made that some of the solutions (and yes, I’ll avoid details) lead to a little head-scratching which will no doubt fuel fan arguments for months to come.

It’s also fair to say that while all previous Marvel films have strived to pay-off for both casual viewers and fans, Avengers: Endgame, rightly, is full-on about resolution, and therefore will probably leave newbies wondering what the heck is going on. But after ten years, that’s perfectly right and fair. And earned.

But these are very minor negative points in what can only really be considered as Marvel’s crowning achievement.

Avengers: Endgame not only gives you everything you could possibly have wanted from this finale, but also gives you so much more in terms of narrative twists and turns, satisfying emotional arcs, thematic pay-offs for threads linking almost every single Marvel film and genuine surprises, particularly for those of us who’ve been along for the ride for the past decade.

And while there are plenty of seeds for the next Phases of Marvel movies (interestingly, Phase 3 officially ends with Spider-Man: Far From Home, in July), you’d better believe this is the end, beautiful friend.

Disney + Targets Your Wallet With New Marvel TV Shows

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As reported here on Out Of Dave’s Head last September, Disney/Marvel are planning a bunch of limited run TV shows with characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, played by their respective movie actors, to help the entire world decide to subscribe to its new streaming channel, Disney +, launching in late 2019.

Alongside the already announced shows for Loki (with Tom Hiddleston) and Scarlet Witch (with Elisabeth Olsen), word came down the pipeline recently of a Falcon & Winter Soldier show (starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan).

Now Variety are reporting that Marvel are developing a Hawkeye limited series, running six to eight episodes and starring Jeremy Renner as the titular archer.

The article also says that the show will introduce the character of Kate Bishop, who became Hawkeye’s replacement for a while in the comic books, before going on to share the codename with Hawkeye’s alter-ego, Clint Barton.

The shows, to be produced by Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige, are expected to have larger budgets to similar television projects, and will be much more closely tied-in with the Marvel movies than the previous runs of Netflix shows, including Daredevil and Jessica Jones.

The channel launches with new shows from Marvel, Monsters Inc. (also featuring original voices, Billy Crystal and John Goodman), High School Reunion and, of course, the two highly anticipated live-action Star Wars shows, The Mandalorian and the Rogue One tie-in adventures of Cassian Andor, starring Diego Luna.

So I suggest submitting your will to Disney and giving them all your money now. Resistance will be futile as Disney take one more step towards world domination of your viewing habits.

Avengers: Endgame Trailer Most Exciting Yet!

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Marvel have just dropped a “special look” (i.e. a trailer) to announce tickets for Avengers: Endgame going on sale worldwide. And oh boy, is it good…

The trailer… sorry, special look… has sent the internet into meltdown as it moves away from the dour feel of the previous two into something far more heroic and finally gives us our reintroduction to Josh Brolin’s big purple bad guy. Hang on, that sounded weird…

That this will be the culmination of 22 movies is quite the feat for Marvel and for fans (…hello…) it’s bound to be an emotional experience, before we head off into uncharted territory with the Phase 4 films (if you can call sequels to Spider-Man, Black Panther and Captain Marvel uncharted, of course).

Avengers: Endgame is released on 26th April for the rest of you poor schlubs, and two days before for us lucky so-and-sos here in Norway. So expect much crowing (but no spoilers, promise) on the 24th.

Also, expect the film to make all the money.

Sane World Rejoices As Disney Reinstates James Gunn For Guardians Of The Galaxy 3!

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In an announcement sure to annoy the grimmer corners of the alt-right internet, but make the rest of us whoop with delight, Disney has reinstated James Gunn to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy 3 for Marvel!

Deadline have just dropped this very welcome bombshell, and while I’m sure we’ll hear more details in the run up to the May 24th release of the dark superhero film, Brightburn, produced by Gunn, I’m happy just to hear this news.

Gunn was fired by Disney when alt-right journalists decided to resurrect poor taste tweets Gunn made almost a decade earlier, and pile pressure on the Mouse House that the writer/director should not be heading up one of its biggest franchises. Sadly, Disney blinked and Gunn was fired.

The report in Deadline states that Marvel Studios never made serious overtures to anyone else regarding Gunn’s replacement and have obviously let things cool down before making this extremely sensible decision.

That decision was complicated by Gunn signing up to direct The Suicide Squad, a sequel/reboot of the critically demolished DC/Warner Bros movie from 2016, but it seems Marvel are willing to push back filming of their movie to accommodate him.

Whether or not you enjoy the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies (and I do, a whole bunch) Gunn was undeniably their heart and soul, and the thought of anyone else finishing off his trilogy with these characters was deeply disappointing, especially for such disheartening reasons.

Welcome back to Marvel, James Gunn! Score one for the good guy!


Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Avengers: Endgame Trailer – Marvel Plays A Smart Game

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The latest (and final?) trailer for Avengers: Endgame has just dropped and I’m happy to say absolutely nothing is spoiled. Take a look for yourself (because we all know that’s what brought you here)…


Well, that’s quite the thing. Tears may roll.

Marvel’s Kevin Feige has stated that the trailers and promotion for the film will only contain material from the first twenty minutes or so of the movie, and even with that caveat there is nothing here but moody build and I have to say I love it.

There’s really little else to say, except I love Marvel’s understated promotion, and I’m pretty sure half the population of the world (see what I did there?) will be glued to cinema seats for this come April 26th.

See you there!

Captain Marvel: Further. Higher. Faster. Mostly.

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On the surface Captain Marvel might be one of the more straightforward of Marvel Studios’ films, but there’s some intriguing stuff at play underneath.

Carol Danvers has been around in the comic books since 1968, though it wasn’t until 1977 that the character adopted her first superheroic alter-ego, that of Ms. Marvel, taking on the legacy mantle of Captain Marvel (after a previous, separate character sharing that name) in 2012.

So while Danvers and the Captain haven’t been around as long as or share the general public awareness as Wonder Woman, the character has paid her dues.

Mention of Wonder Woman here is interesting, as while DC and Warner Bros made her gender a prominent part of the character’s journey in 2017’s film, here Marvel almost wilfully subvert expectations of such considerations to take a more subtle route in unleashing their first female-fronted franchise.

When alien Kree warrior Vers (Brie Larson) goes on a mission against the shape-shifting Skrull race with her mentor, Yon-Rogg (played by welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jude Law), which quickly not only goes pear-shaped but also sees Vers begun to unlock a sequence of events which will lead her to unravel a series of recurring nightmare flashbacks.

Ver’s journey leads her to Earth in 1995, and encounters with (amazingly CGI de-aged) younger versions of Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and revelations which will change both her life and the future of Marvel history.

That the film presents all this as an unfolding mystery is one of the stronger points of the standard origin story, and as per usual this is entertainment of the highest caliber from Marvel: superb casting (including a star-making turn from Larson, who rises above some deficiencies in the script to make a hugely appealing central character and another fantastic turn from Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, the Skrull, who is obviously having a blast), snappy dialogue and fun action sequences. But it’s somewhat disappointing to report that despite all this, Captain Marvel still feels like one of the studio’s more workmanlike (excuse the gender conflation here) efforts.

While it’s highly admirable (and enjoyable) that it’s never even really made an issue that Vers and Marvel are presented as the equal (and indeed, superior) to any males in her orbit, making the film rather an important step in its own way, it’s a shame that some of this is presented in a less than inspired manner. I found the direction by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to be lacking a certain vision, and it’s the first Marvel film where I’ve actually felt the hand of a committee in the course of viewing.

It’s not difficult to imagine that the firing of James Gunn, who had been acting as a kind of creative guru to the studio until a small group of internet nazis dug up some poor taste jokes Gunn had made on Twitter and used those to successfully blackmail Disney into letting him go, had some kind of reverb effect on Marvel (and Captain Marvel). There are choices made in the film which feel distinctly Gunn-ian (is that a thing? It is now), but executed without his very particular flair.

A perfect example of this is the decision to play out a third act fight scene, between Marvel and some of the bad guys, with No Doubt’s Just A Girl playing over the soundtrack. Given the possibility of this particular song to comment on the action, this might seem like a good idea, but on reflection I found myself wondering what the song really had to do with I was seeing onscreen. In hindsight it feels like a choice that Gunn might have considered then rejected as being simply too on the nose.

It might seem unfair to be laying the film with a “what would James Gunn have done?” vibe, but it’s impossible to separate a studio film like this from the events that surrounded its creation.

But don’t let these caveats put you off from seeing Captain Marvel (in 3D if you can, and if you have a cinema that knows how to project the format properly – because the post-converted 3D is really superb), as even Marvel’s most simply efficient is the equal of or better than many other studios’ efforts.

You’ll definitely have a good time (and if you’re a Stan Lee fan, like me, the film may even make you cry in its opening seconds, as I did), and without a doubt it’s a strong introduction to a character who is tipped to become an important lynchpin in Marvel’s future movies (not least of which in next month’s much-anticipated Avengers: Endgame).

And to answer a question I know many of you have (without spoiling anything) Thanos should be very, very worried right now.

Captain Marvel definitely goes further, higher, faster, to use both the character’s and the film’s tag-line, but could have gone even higher, even further and even faster.

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Films: 2018 Edition

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Okay, because many folks have asked… here are my favourite nine films from 2018.

Notice I said favourite and not best. I was recently interviewed for a newspaper piece where the reporter asked my favourite three movies. This felt like a refreshing change as I didn’t feel a need to spend time over-intellectualising my responses as I might have done if she’d asked what I thought were the best three films ever.

Before I launch into my list, it’s worth pointing out I still have some catching up to do, hence no possible entries for films such as Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, You Were Never Really Here or Bohemian Rhapsody.

So, with that caveat clear and without further ado, let’s head to my favourite nine (…nine, because, why not!?) films of the past twelve months…

9. Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

I have to admit the M:I films were mostly sort of washing over me, enjoyable in the moment but somewhat unmemorable bar their set-pieces. But then Fallout appeared, not only leaving me with a bill from my local cinema for having left fingernail holes in my seat, but also with a much greater enthusiasm for the previous entries. I’m gearing up for a run-through of the series at home in readiness for a second viewing of Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie’s remarkable piece of breathless skullduggery. Also, finishing off a series with two films featuring Sean Harris is always a bonus.

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8. The Rider.

Yeah, yeah, I know that it premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017, but those of us in the real world didn’t see it until its official release in 2018. Hopefully that doesn’t trigger anyone too badly.  Chloé Zhao’s contemporary western drama concerning rodeo riders feels like a top contender for the ‘film more people should see‘ award, 2018. Both painfully intimate and sweepingly widescreen, Zhao paints a portrait of a contained community with universal problems. You can read my full review here.

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7. Eighth Grade.

In many ways this shares some DNA with The Rider, taking me to a world I knew nothing about. This time, the unknown is the life of an adolescent girl in a time of social media, and this smart, sensitive, occasionally excruciating and ultimately uplifting film, from director Bo Burnham, features a hugely engaging central performance by newcomer, Elsie Fisher.

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6. A Quiet Place.

The first of two horror films in a strong year for the genre (see also Apostle, Mandy, Halloween, etc). Unfair on my behalf, but I was absolutely not expecting this from Jim Halpert from The Office. Directed and co-written (along with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods) by John Krasinski, this post-apocalyptic monster movie hits all the right beats, gradually unveiling a world of silent terror using a personable family, headed up by Krasinski and the always-excellent Emily Blunt. Understated until it doesn’t have to be, this is great, old-school horror that could easily have worked as an old Twilight Zone episode.

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5. Ant-Man & The Wasp.

Tricky one, this. I didn’t want to fill my list with Marvel movies (seeing as we had three releases from them in 2018) and I really struggled between this and Black Panther, but in the end I had (slightly) more fun with Peyton Reed’s delightfully light-touched sequel, especially since I’m the type of Marvel Geek who believes this film will pay off more once we see Avengers: Endgame.

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4. Hereditary.

Ari Aster’s uneven but striking mix of family grief and the supernatural is a divisive film, very much a case of go-with-it-or-don’t. The first three-quarters of the movie is mostly all slow-burn intensity until the final twenty minutes or so go off into full-blown hysteria (which is where many viewers seem to check out). I went with it the whole way on my viewing, but will be curious to see how it holds up next time. Worth pointing out that regardless of any future reaction, I’ll still laud it for probably the most outrageous WTF moment in cinema this year.  Review here.

3. The Meg (just kidding).

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3. The Other Side of the Wind.

Freewheeling and meticulous, Orson Welles’ lost masterpiece (never a more fitting appellation) first started production in 1970 and was only completed after Welles’ death by a team headed up by Peter Bogdanovich and producer Frank Marshall. Released onto Netflix at the end of the year, Welles’ mesmerising film is both a celebration and a satire of Classic Hollywood and avant-garde filmmaking. Review here.

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2. Roma.

The only disappointing thing about multihyphenate Alfonso Cuarón’s almost tone poem telling of a tumultuous period in the life of his childhood home-help is that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see it on a cinema screen, seeing as it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve laid my eyes on in a long time (to avoid a lynching by my significant other, I mean cinematically, of course). Review here.

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1. Avengers: Infinity War.

Marvel Geek nirvana. The Russo brothers and co. pulled off a remarkable, if overpacked, feat in bringing to a head ten years of films across multiple franchises while still managing to create a cultural zeitgeist moment with a single finger click. Of course, we know most of the galaxy’s missing half will be restored (…don’t we!?), but the joy, as with many comic books of the source material, is in seeing how our heroes snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And now we don’t have much longer to wait. Review here.

Dishonourable mention: Suspiria (don’t @ me).

See you all in 2019. Feel free to leave me your favourites from 2018 in the comments below.