This month Emlyn brings us a round-up of some of his favourite films of the past year. Not all will have made it to our Swansea cinemas, but are now widely available to download or buy on DVD.
The best Spider-Man movie in nearly 15 years and almost unquestionably the best animated film released last year, Into the Spider-Verse follows a sextet of spider-people from a variety of alternate dimensions on a hilarious, poignant and spectacularly beautiful world-saving quest. As well as Miles Morales, Peter Parker and a version of Gwen Stacy who got spider powers of her own instead of dying, we have the black-and-white, Nazi-punching Spider-Man Noir; Peni Parker and her pet robot from an anime universe; and Looney Tunes-style talking animal Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham. There’s a lot going on here, with repeat viewings highly recommended, but in a film landscape dominated by superheroes this really is one of the best – and you haven’t seen another animated film that looks like it.
As a sequel to a spin-off from the, shall we say, uneven Rocky franchise, a little trepidation about Creed II would be understandable. But fortunately, while not spectacular, this is a completely solid and extremely entertaining new chapter that makes the most of its premise without becoming too melodramatic. Adonis Creed faces off in the ring against Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago, the man who killed his father back in Rocky IV. Even at their silliest, the Rocky movies are hugely enjoyable, and this takes its fun, fan-pleasing premise and manages to wring some real psychological depth out of it. Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson are great as always, but the standout is Florian Munteanu as Viktor, who with a largely dialogue-free role combines determination to prove himself with oceans of bitterness and resentment towards the father who pushed him into boxing.
Mortal Engines was one of last year’s biggest box office failures, grossing about as much in total as Halloween did in its first weekend – while costing about ten times as much to produce – which is a real pity because, for all its flaws, there is much to enjoy here. The pace is breathless and rarely gives the characters space to breathe, but super-cool sky pirate Anna Fang and undead cyborg mercenary Shrike are still wonderful creations, as is the world in which the story takes place. A post-apocalyptic Earth where cities have gone mobile and hunt each other for their resources, it’s about as high-concept as movies get and, refreshingly, it’s neither a sequel nor an adaptation of a superhero comic. Its collapse makes it all but certain that the other books in the series (which are terrific and thoroughly worth your time) won’t be adapted, which is a shame. Mortal Engines isn’t as good as its source material, but there is loads of potential here and it’s sad that we won’t get to see it blossom.
A screamingly funny, pitch-dark and utterly surreal satire on the subject of race, class, capitalism and society as a whole, Sorry to Bother You is the kind of film that leaves you with your jaw hanging open wondering how on earth something this unashamedly bonkers got made in the first place, never mind given a proper cinema release. It’s the story of Cassius Green, a young black telemarketer who’s advised to use a “white voice” on the phone – and discovers he has a real talent for it. To reveal any more would be to spoil the fun, but there’s no way of predicting the increasingly gonzo turns this film takes, pulling no punches whatsoever and throwing everything it can think of into the mix. It’s one of the true originals of recent years, and marks writer/director Boots Riley as a major new talent to keep your eyes on.
A sort of modern-day spin on the Salem witch trials, Assassination Nation sees a small American town go increasingly insane as a malicious hacker starts leaking people’s personal information. As things get violent and everyone turns against everyone else, four young women band together to try and survive. As subtle as a sledgehammer to the face and as angry as the kind of person who would hit you in the face with a sledgehammer, this is a thrilling, no-holds-barred political exploitation flick that deserved to be seen by far more people than it was. The ending is profoundly cathartic, despite the bleak places we have to go through to get there, and there’s a one-take home invasion set-piece that’s just superb.