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Cinema

The best films of 2018 so far, from Avengers: Infinity War to The Shape of Water

We’re just halfway through 2018, but already it’s shaping up to be a year to remember at the cinema – our film critics have already given five-star ratings to four films. These are our top releases of the past six months

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 June, 2018, 9:06am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 June, 2018, 9:02am

2018 is shaping up to be a great year for movies. In fact, it isn’t even half gone and our film critics have already given out four five-star reviews. Here, in alphabetical order, is our list of the best-reviewed movies released in Hong Kong cinemas in the first six months of the year.

Read also: The 25 best films of 2017 released in Hong Kong

120 Beats per Minute

A passionate and moving testament to the power of public action, French writer-director Robin Campillo’s thrilling 140-minute film offers a vital portrait of the Parisian branch of the HIV advocacy group ACT UP in the early 1990s, as its young members try to raise awareness of the Aids epidemic. Read the full review

All the Money in the World

No Kevin Spacey, no problem. Despite coming in as an eleventh-hour replacement for the disgraced actor, Christopher Plummer – feted with an Oscar nod for his troubles – more than anchors this kidnap thriller with his powerful turn as the misanthropic billionaire John Paul Getty. Read the full review

Angels Wear White

An unflinchingly bleak picture of the decaying moral landscape of China, writer-director Vivian Qu’s social drama considers the misogyny and widespread corruption that two young girls suffer at the hands of institutions, ranging from the police force to regional officials and even doctors. Read the full review

Avengers: Infinity War

Every comics fan’s wildest dream has come true with Marvel’s mega-blockbuster, which caps a decade of superhero world-building with a hugely entertaining spectacle of laughs, surprises and heartbreak. This third Avengers movie – and the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – may well be its best outing yet. Read the full review

Bright Sunshine In

Renowned for her sensual art-house dramas, the French writer-director Claire Denis takes an unexpected step into the realm of romantic comedy with this witty reflection on relationships, anchored by the ever delightful Juliette Binoche as a divorced middle-aged artist trying on a series of lovers in Paris. Read the full review

Call Me by Your Name

Following the sensual art-house gems I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015), Luca Guadagnino makes his biggest hit yet with this Oscar-winning same-sex romance, which sees Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer engage in a melancholy affair in the visually ravishing Italian countryside. Read the full review

China’s Van Goghs

Directed by father-daughter pair Yu Haibo and Kiki Yu Tianqi, this portrait of a peasant turned oil painter who churns out replicas of renowned Western paintings in a once-modest village in Shenzhen offers a surprisingly profound look at the purpose of art-making, as well as the devastating reality of the global marketplace. Read the full review

Darkest Hour

No one was surprised when Gary Oldman went on to win the best actor prize at the Oscars. Giving an astoundingly transformative turn as wartime British prime minister Winston Churchill, the actor has certainly elevated this political thriller, directed by Joe Wright, with a portrayal for the ages. Read the full review

The Disaster Artist

Actor-turned director James Franco won a Golden Globe for his acting in this laugh-out-loud-funny homage to the 2003 cult classic The Room, which also manages to be sympathetic towards Tommy Wiseau’s insatiable desire to create, to find fame, and to leave a legacy by which to be remembered. Read the full review

Dries

Revered as much for the bright colour and eye-catching texture of his designs as his unusual lack of interest in the hullabaloo of the fashion business, Belgian designer Dries Van Noten receives the insightful documentary portrait he deserves with this very satisfying film, directed by Reiner Holzemer. Read the full review

A Fantastic Woman

A transgender waitress (played by the excellent trans actress Daniela Vega) must tackle grief and prejudice when her older boyfriend dies suddenly – and his family vehemently bars her from his funeral – in this heart-rending film from Chile, winner of this year’s best-foreign-language film Oscar. Read the full review

The Florida Project

After earning rave reviews with his iPhone-shot transgender drama Tangerine, director Sean Baker all but proved that he is one of the brightest new voices of American cinema with this stunningly beautiful tale of a six-year-old girl and her young and irresponsible mother. It’s both hilarious and heartbreaking. Read the full review

I Am Not Your Negro

Based on the writings of African-American writer James Baldwin, a prominent activist in the US civil rights movement, this compelling documentary weaves together television broadcasts, film clips and archival footage to chronicle a history of racial violence that is still very much relevant today. Read the full review

I, Tonya

The tragedy of disgraced Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding – who was involved in a plot to injure a rival – serves as the basis of a hilarious biopic. After her Harley Quinn proved a bit hit in Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie confirms her acting credentials with this inspired take on Harding. Read the full review

The Insult

At once thought-provoking, impious and even a little hopeful, Ziad Doueiri’s riveting courtroom drama – a nominee for best foreign-language film at the Oscars – sees a civilian dispute somehow evolve into a national crisis that pits Christians against Muslims in the long shadow of the Lebanese civil war. Read the full review

Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson’s second stop-motion animated film – after Fantastic Mr. Fox – may well be the quirkiest outing yet for the idiosyncratic director. A bleak story about the canine population on a refuse-infested island, it blends references to Japanese cinema with overt political commentary to very charming effect. Read the full review

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A one-of-a-kind filmmaking genius who has been shocking and aweing viewers with his deeply unsettling fables on the human condition, The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest psychological thriller finds Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman at the centre of an enigmatic story about paying for one’s mistakes. Read the full review

Jupiter’s Moon

Getting tired of Marvel or DC’s boilerplate superhero blockbusters? Then don’t miss this utterly inventive sci-fi oddity by the Hungarian auteur Kornél Mundruczó, best known for his 2014 canine thriller White God. Here, a Syrian refugee miraculously attains the ability to fly after being shot near Budapest. Read the full review

Last Flag Flying

A powerful tale of patriotism and grief that is also improbably hilarious, the ever reliable Richard Linklater’s drama about a reunion of ex-Marines to bury the son of one of them also draws out a trio of great performances from its leading men Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne. Read the full review

Life, Animated

Few movies capture the magic of cinema quite like this documentary by Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams, which charts a young autistic man’s quest to connect with the world via the help of characters from Disney’s animated movies. It is a funny and utterly heart-warming tale of family love. Read the full review

Loveless

An unloved schoolboy’s disappearance sets the stage for his soon-to-divorce parents’ emotionally exhausting journey into the wretched core of both society and humanity in this Oscar-nominated drama by the Russian auteur Andrey Zvyagintsev, whose previous film, Leviathan, also received an Academy Awards nomination. Read the full review

Night Is Short, Walk on Girl

Japanese director Masaaki Yuasa’s animated feature is a showcase of vibrant colours and wildly original storytelling. Following the criss-crossing destinies of a mysterious girl and the schoolboy who has a crush on her, this hallucinatory fantasy offers everything from romance to mystery and unbridled nuttiness. Read the full review

Ocean’s 8

An all-female reboot of Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 hit Ocean’s Eleven – itself based on the 1960 film of the same name – this star-studded heist caper is slight on surprise but ridiculously abundant in talent, led by Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway as master thieves in an infectiously fun outing. Read the full review

The Outlaws

After fighting off zombies galore in the blockbuster hit Train to Busan, Ma Dong-seok turns his fists towards Seoul’s vicious thugs in this hyper-violent tale of gangland mayhem. His cold-blooded nemesis, a homicidal mobster played by Yoon Kye-sang, is arguably more frightening than the undead. Read the full review

Outrage Coda

The third and final instalment in actor-director Takeshi Kitano’s yakuza comeback trilogy is a typically gory and convoluted tale of shifting loyalties and crafty power plays in Japan’s criminal underworld. The film’s colourful range of gangster types and outrageous body count will keep genre fans very happy. Read the full review

Phantom Thread

In his last film before retirement, Daniel Day-Lewis gives a bizarrely charismatic turn as a pre-eminent London dressmaker haunted by his mother’s spirit and trapped by his own idiosyncratic routines. Somehow Vicky Krieps, a little-known actress from Luxembourg, proves to be his match as the couturier’s muse. Read the full review

The Post

Steven Spielberg’s thrilling ensemble drama recalls how the Pentagon Papers were made public. Starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep as The Washington Post’s editor and proprietor, the 1970s-set film unmistakably echoes with today’s America, in which the media must work around Trump’s difficult White House. Read the full review

A Quiet Place

The husband-and-wife team of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt have come up with one of the year’s best high-concept thrillers. Set in an eerily silent world overrun by alien predators sensitive to sound, this nerve-racking postapocalyptic horror film firmly establishes Krasinski as a writer-director to watch. Read the full review

Ready Player One

It’s no exaggeration to describe this as one of Steven Spielberg’s most ambitious films. This exuberant adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel is at once a nostalgia-tinted homage to pop culture of decades past and a visually enchanting peek into a future world saturated with virtual reality. It is pure cinematic magic. Read the full review

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Every admirer of Ryuichi Sakamoto – as well as anyone who’s fascinated by the creative process – should check out this intimate documentary on the legendary Japanese composer, who was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago but went on to make one of the greatest albums of his illustrious career. Read the full review

Salyut 7

A Russian space epic to rival Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, this fact-based thriller brings vividly to life an incredible mission in history, where a pair of Soviet cosmonauts must dock with an unmanned object in space after losing contact with their orbiting space station. Read the full review

Secret Superstar

Bollywood royalty Aamir Khan lends his charisma to another female-empowerment story after the megahit Dangal. Reuniting Khan with Zaira Wasim, who briefly plays his young daughter in that film, this story of a YouTube sensation who overcomes her miserable home life and realises her singing dreams is very touching. Read the full review

The Shape of Water

While distantly echoing the camp horror classic Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), this Oscar-winning fantasy romance by Guillermo del Toro is an altogether different beast – gloriously blending genres that range from monster movies to cold war spy thrillers and even a dash of musicals. Read the full review

Somewhere Beyond the Mist

After cementing his place as one of Hong Kong’s foremost documentary filmmakers with the acclaimed KJ and The Taste of Youth, Cheung King-wai makes his fiction feature debut with this utterly chilling portrait of apathy and family disintegration, related via a cold-blooded murder case. Read the full review

The Square

The Palme d’Or winner at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and a nominee for the best foreign-language Oscar earlier this year, this Swedish comedy by Force Majeure director Ruben Östlund takes a relentlessly biting view on art-world elitism and the social contract through a museum curator’s misfortunes. Read the full review

Solo: A Star Wars Story

While fans were right to worry about the mid-production change of directors for this second Star Wars spin-off, the Han Solo prequel is nevertheless a thrilling crowd-pleaser in its final form. Alden Ehrenreich, in particular, proves a more than capable successor to Harrison Ford as the charismatic space pirate. Read the full review

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The politics of revenge receives a complex new spin in this powerful drama by British-Irish playwright-turned filmmaker Martin McDonagh. The darkly comic, yet also relentlessly tragic, tale of murder and justice won acting prizes for both Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell at this year’s Academy Awards. Read the full review

Unsane

After a brief spell of “retirement” and the mediocre comeback effort Logan Lucky, Steven Soderbergh returns to his idiosyncratic best with this iPhone-shot thriller, which sees The Crown’s Claire Foy play a traumatised woman who mistakenly signs up for a 24-hour evaluation at a behavioural centre. Read the full review

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