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The 50 Best 2018 Films We’ve Already Seen

Written by on January 8, 2018 

Gemini (Aaron Katz; March 30)


Gemini is also a fantastic neo-noir set in the Thief-inspired Los Angeles of Drive, an upside-down city, as captured in the surrealistic opening credits by cinematographer Andrew Reed, where morals have all but vanished, leaving behind only a group of ghostly beings trapped in the limbo of their crushed dreams and dissatisfaction. (James Ransone’s paparazzo is especially wonderful.) We wonder, for example, why the intelligent, perceptive Jill wound up as the personal assistant / henchwoman of spoiled movie star Heather Anderson (Zoë Kravitz) who uses her to conduct dirty work under the pretense of being more than her employee, but also her “best friend.” – Jose S. (full review)

A Gentle Creature (Sergei Loznitsa)


Loosely adapted from Dostoyevsky’s shory story of the same name, Sergei Loznitsa’s film received a chilly response at Cannes when it premiered in competition despite being one of the best films vying for the Palme. The unnamed ‘gentle creature’ (Vasilina Makovtseva) has a care package meant for her imprisoned husband returned without reason, which inspires her to make the long trip to his jail in order to make sure it gets delivered. Her journey is more or less a descent into hell, with corrupt officials, rotten people, and a dearth of human decency showing itself in every meticulously composed frame. Loznitsa’s direction is masterful in the way it expresses such a refined fury at the current state of Russia, and he caps everything off with a final act so audacious it demands admiration. There’s a boldness to A Gentle Creature that’s missing from almost every other film in 2017, and its willingness to take risks as big as the ones it does should be celebrated, not scorned. – C.J. P.

Good Luck (Ben Russell)


A bifurcated look at two sets of workers on different sides of the world, Ben Russell’s Good Luck takes a simple form and uses it to explore the complexities of globalisation and the world economy. Russell dedicates the first half to a group of government miners working underground in Siberia, then abruptly changes his focus to a potentially illegal gold mining operation run by a collective in Suriname. Through filming the workers’ conversations with each other, Russell lets the commonalities between both halves occur naturally, as everyone finds themselves relying more on luck than their hard labor to live a better life. Shot on Super 16, Good Luck also showcases some of the more stunning sequences from 2017, including an elevator ride to the top of the Siberian mine and steadicam shots of the miners at work. – C.J. P.

Hannah (Andrea Pallaoro)


Hannah is Charlotte Rampling’s face. There are barely any other actors to speak of in this film, and the camera often purposefully excises their faces from its attention, favoring its lead’s reactions to their words and motions. Therefore it is an extended journey through pain, as the eponymous character flails about to grasp meaning after the ground crumbles beneath her. – Dan S. (full review)

Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont)


It’s easy to imagine the “old-school” Bruno Dumont Joan of Arc film; faith, martyrdom, and the landscape of the French countryside intermingling to a wrenching finale, with Bresson and Dreyer certainly paid their transcendental cinema due. Though perhaps realizing their films weren’t the be-all, end-all in terms of representing the French icon, even if Preminger, Rivette and uh, Besson, had also offered their own takes that showed a portrait beyond the trial and subsequent burning at the stake, he finally set about making it, but as a new artist. – Ethan V. (full review)

Let the Corpses Tan (Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani)


With their third feature, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani tackle the poliziotteschi genre instead of the giallo (here’s hoping for the peplum next). The picture is focused on the fallout of a gold bar robbery in the Mediterranean; a gang of thieves, artists and motorcycle cops colliding to a naturally bloody end. Adapted from a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid, yet still not providing too much in the way of narrative, this writer could at least discern plot points involving a Rabid Dogs-like kidnapping, a Treasure of Sierra Madre-inspired descent into greedy violence and, of course, some psychosexual hijinks that likely invokes every genre picture of the past fifty years. If there’s a driving force one can find, perhaps it’s just the greed in a man’s eyes at the sight of gold. – Ethan V. (full review)

Let the Sunshine In (Claire Denis)


Claire Denis may not be the first Francophone auteur expected to turn in a romantic comedy, and her latest will disappoint those expecting Nancy Meyers a Paris. However, Let the Sunshine In (Un Beau Soleil Interieur) is a sophisticated, idiosyncratic, thoroughly modern interpretation of a French romantic farce, perceptive if not laugh-out-loud funny, featuring a top-form Juliette Binoche as a middle-aged divorcée wading through a series of exasperatingly self-centered men in search not just for love, but a partner with whom she can be herself. – Ed F. (full review)

Life and Nothing More (Antonio Méndez Esparza)


Antonio Méndez Esparza’s sophomore feature is a social realist triumph, and one of the year’s true hidden gems (it came and went quickly during the fall festival circuit, where only a handful of critics caught it). Taking place in northern Florida, it follows single mother Regina (Regina Williams, one of the year’s best performances) as she tries to hold down a job at a diner, deal with her rebellious teenage son, and raise her four-year-old daughter while trying to stay afloat. Esparza directs with a simple approach, keeping the camera locked down and providing brief impressions of his characters’ lives to evoke the daily struggle of their existence (the editing, using elliptical cuts to emphasize the way characters inhabit spaces over temporal concerns, is phenomenal). Despite having no distribution at the moment, Life and Nothing More achieved an Independent Spirit nomination for Williams, a deserving nod for best actress and hopefully a chance for a distributor to help get this film seen so it can receive the praise it deserves. – C.J. P.

Manhunt (John Woo)


John Woo’s return to the genre that made his career isn’t so much of a comeback as it is watching one of our best action directors become unleashed. This is a film of superlatives, where storylines and subplots pile on top of each other in the middle of action setpieces that astound in their absurdity. There are cover-ups, conspiracies, badass assassins, jetski chases, revenge plots, super soldiers and much, much more, with Woo orchestrating all of his madness into a giddy delirium while giving viewers a big ol’ self-reflexive wink. One of the most purely entertaining films of 2017, Manhunt is the exact kind of maximalist fun we need right now. – C.J. P.

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