Welcome to the start of a new year. This year, you may be thinking about making some changes in your life. You may be thinking about starting a new business, moving to a different country, or taking a sabbatical to travel the world. If you’re passionate about cinema, then perhaps you’ll even consider being a film producer or director. Whatever your future plans may be, one thing is for sure – you’ll have plenty to watch! Here’s a round-up of the most popular films from this year with spoilers where necessary.
The Greatest Showman
The Great Showman is a 2018 biographical drama film directed by Michael Gracey and written by Nick Hornby. It is about showman P.T. Barnum, who created one of the first amusement parks in London, and became one of the wealthiest men in 19th-century America. The film stars Hugh Jackman as Barnum, alongside Lesley Manville, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz. It also features an appearance by Zac Efron as a circus performer. The film premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival before being released in UK cinemas on October 12, 2018.
The film marks the return of Jackman to the big-screen after a five-year absence. The Australian actor and singer is best known for his roles in the X-Men series, Jackman’s solo music video album, and musical theatre adaptations of The Lion King and Mr. Jackman. His performance as Barnum is said to be the performance of his career.
Despite its popularity, the film received mixed reviews. While some critics compared it to a Disney cartoon, with A.O. Scott of The New York Times writing, ‘It doesn’t pull off the difficult balance of live action and animation with any great ease, but it mostly works.’, others viewed it as a serious drama. Justin Chang of Variety wrote that Jackman ‘commands the screen with his brilliant, showstopping performance as Barnum’. In a poll conducted by FlixFacts, the audience ranked The Great Showman among the top ten films of 2018.
Disney’s Aladdin is an upcoming American 3D romantic musical comedy-adventure film directed by David M. Allen and written by Adam Carr. It is based on The Return of the King (1943) by American author and playwright A.C. Clarke, which was in turn inspired by the 19th-century novel The King of Thorns by Matthew Gregory Lewis. The novel’s basis is a conflict between its eponymous hero, Aladdin, and his father the King, who wants to keep him isolated to avoid confronting his many bad habits. Aladdin escapes from his father’s castle and encounters the genie of the lamp, who grants him three wishes. He returns home to find his father dead and his city in ruins, having inadvertently set off a chain of events that will lead to Aladdin having to rebuild a new city from the ground up.
The film stars Will Smith as the charming and resourceful Aladdin, whose good manners and kind heartedness conceal a cunning intellect and a steel interior. Alongside him are Mena Massoud as his faithful right-hand man and Robin Wright as his beautiful and sharp-tongued mother, the King. It also features Naomi Scott, Brad Pitt, and Iwan Rheon. The King of Thorns marks the sixth collaboration between director Allen and screenwriter Carr, who previously worked together on the 2017 sports drama film Overpowered, as well as 2014’s Mudbound and 2017’s The Kitchen.
Aladdin marks the first collaboration between production company Disney and director-turned-writer Allen. The pair worked together on 2015’s The Nice Guy, a comedy-drama that Allen later referred to ‘the worst experience of my entire career’. Despite this, the film went on to become one of the most popular releases of the year, breaking box-office records upon its premiere in North America. As well as critical acclaim, the film was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award in the category of Best Original Score.
While the reviews for Aladdin have been largely positive, some critics have suggested that the film is an attempt to cash in on Will Smith’s popularity. Smith has reportedly earned $20 million for the role of Aladdin alone, making him one of the most well-paid actors of the year.
Dark Phoenix is a 2018 American superhero film directed by Simon Kinberg and written by Matthew Vaughn and Scott Frank. It is the sixth installment in the X-Men series and the first since 2016’s Logan. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence as the eponymous character and is the conclusion to Kinberg’s X-Men trilogy, which began with 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. It also stars Nicholas Hoult, Sam Heughan, and Olivia Munn, as well as features appearances by Charlize Theron and Tessa Thompson.
Dark Phoenix explores the dark origins of the X-Men villainess, Dark Phoenix, who comes back from the dead as a zombie, as well as the adventures of Jean Grey, the original X-Men heroine, as she battles to save humanity from impending doom.
The film’s box office performance was extremely disappointing, taking in only $7 million in its opening weekend in the United States, and $14 million in its overall total. However, it did not perform as badly as 2014’s The Fault in Our Stars, which starred Shailene Woodley and was directed by Anna Kendrick, and 2017’s Stranger Things, with its impressive ensemble cast and haunting score by Michael Kosarin. Both of these films underperformed at the box office, with the audience rankin them Dead on Arrival and Disappointment, respectively, on FlixFacts’ Year-End List.
Ready Player One
Ready Player One is a 2018 American science fiction adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Zak Penn. It is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Ernest Cline. The film revolves around the virtual world known as the ‘Oasis’, where users can live out their most immersive and interactive movie dreams through a combination of technology and pop culture influences. The movie is set in the future, with most of the action taking place in the Oasis. However, some scenes were actually filmed in the Dominican Republic.
The film stars Tye Sheridan as the main character, Steven, a teenager living in the real world whose deepest desire is to own the entire ‘Oasis’ ecosystem. He eventually recruits friends, family, and colleagues to form a competitive team to navigate and survive in the virtual world. The supporting cast features Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendez, and Lena Waithe.
This was Spielberg’s first time directing a live-action feature since 2005’s Catch Me If You Can, which was a box-office disappointment. He said of Ready Player One, “It has everything a Spielberg movie is supposed to have: thrilling action, an unpredictable plot, memorable characters, and an optimistic sense of wonder.” Despite this praise, the film received mixed reviews from critics, who wrote, “The special effects in ‘Ready Player One’ are realistic enough to leave an impact, but not so complex that audiences might become overwhelmed.” at the box office.
Mullet Christmas is a 2018 American Christmas comedy film directed by David Silverberg and starring Rob Lowe as a man with an unwanted new haircut, which leads him on a series of misadventures throughout the Christmas season.
The film was announced in August 2018 and premiered on Christmas Day 2018. It was released in select theaters and on digital platforms on December 12, 2018.
Lowe plays the rebellious son of a wealthy family who quits his job to explore the world. He encounters a series of mishaps and misadventures, which cause him to lose his hair. The film’s other stars include Susan Sarandon, Carla Gugino, and Bobby Cannavale. In addition, the film marks the directorial debut of Silverberg, who has written for films such as The Benchwarmers and Mr. Woodcock.
Mullet Christmas represents Silverberg’s first attempt at directing and stars an ensemble cast, which he wanted to avoid in the future. He remarked, “I thought it would be a good idea to have people playing off each other, rather than having a lot of individual scenes. Because we’re all so familiar with the characters and the situations, it’s much more fun to watch the scene as a whole.”