Nathan Ross – Newcastle’s hero in dark times

For Nathan Ross to achieve all that he has throughout his NRL career is nothing short of outstanding.

Told by Wayne Bennett he wouldn’t cut it as a first grader, he defied the super coach just by making it onto the field against St George Illawarra in Round 21, 2015.

At age 26 he was a rugby league anomaly to debut so late, but just being there – along with crossing for a try for good measure – wasn’t enough for the Rossdog.

Going on to play 60 games for the Newcastle Knights, scoring 23 tries and making his representative debut for City in the final City v Country fixture, the end to his time in the NRL due to irreparable pelvis damage is a sobering reminder of how abruptly careers can end for professional athletes.

His career might be over, yet the legacy he leaves is as a symbol of hope for a club during an incredibly difficult period.

To isolate a single moment that encapsulates his legacy is hard to pinpoint.

Highlight reels will continue to show his remarkable effort to score against the Dragons in 2016.

For every Newcastle supporter who endured 19 consecutive defeats, the ecstasy felt when he scored his second try to beat the Titans at home in 2017 cannot be understated.

Recovering from a fractured back to play the final two matches in a season where a third wooden spoon was already assured spoke volumes of his dedication to pull on the red and blue jersey regardless of the stakes.

The death of City v Country may be viewed as little to mourn by some, but try telling that to a player whose career spanned stints with Coogee, Tweed Heads, Burleigh, Lakes United, Kurri Kurri and Toulouse in pursuit of making it in the NRL.

Many players past and present would envy all that Ross has achieved in his career, but for all the tremendous tries, explosive runs and refreshing humour he has provided since coming onto the scene in late 2015, the moment that stands out above all else is a tackle.

Afforded the opportunity to play in his preferred fullback position midway through 2017, a try saving effort on Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman mere metres from the line vindicated coach Nathan Brown’s decision to shift him to the number one jersey.

Showing immense effort and willingness to put his body on the line for his teammates, in that one moment he embodied the ethos laid out by foundation coach Alan McMahon three decades earlier – ‘be the player everyone wants to play with’.

Nathan Ross wasn’t fortunate enough to win a grand final with the Knights, far from it he played in a time where the club was anchored to the bottom of the ladder for three of the four years he lived his dream as NRL player #262 for Newcastle.

Having received offers to leave Newcastle for other NRL clubs and abroad, Ross may well have won more than 14 matches in first grade elsewhere before injury prematurely cruelled him.

Newcastle has enjoyed better days in the past and will go on to have more in the future, but in sticking with the Knights through one of the darkest periods in the club’s 32 seasons, Nathan Ross shone with hope for a team that desperately needed it.

Congratulations on all you have achieved in your career Nathan. It is unfortunate that it has ended due to injury. I wish the best for yourself and your family after football. Thank you for all you have done for the Newcastle Knights.

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NRL 2019 Season Predictions

Predicting where all sixteen NRL clubs will finish before a ball has been kicked serves as a great source of humour in hindsight.

Injuries, off-field dramas and players only the most die-hard of supporters have heard of all play a role in shaping the final standings. Yet for all the times experts and pundits alike have been proven wrong, season predictions provide fans with an annual sense of optimism that ‘this will be our year’.

In ranking where every team will finish at the end of 25 home-and-away rounds, I am basing my selections on purely subjective criteria – many will be incorrect. Feel free to share your own predictions, but please think with your ‘big head’ and refute my claims with actual points (not just hurling insults).


 

Manly 2019 Graphic

Someone has to run last.

In looking at the roster the Sea Eagles are set to draw upon in 2019, with the notable exceptions of Daly Cherry-Evans, Martin Taupau and the Trbojevic brothers, the overall quality of talent is severely lacking. The return of Des Hasler will bring about positive results in the future, but for now it’s going to be a long year on the northern beaches

Crystal Ball – Manase Fainu finishes the year as first-choice hooker.

 

WT 2019 Graphic

Tough calls have to be made.

More than capable of qualifying for the top eight, the biggest issue facing new Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire will be having the retirement talk with two club legends. The feats produced by Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah will live forever in the club’s DNA, but for the joint venture to be successful moving forward, Josh Reynolds and Jacob Liddle have to be given control of the team.

Crystal Ball – Mid-season injury crisis sees ex-Bulldogs Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds reunite in the halves.

 

NZW 2019 Graphic

Inconsistency is their specialty.

The decision to release Shaun Johnson may be the correct one down the track, but with no recognised halfback to fill the void left by his departure, the Warriors are going to find things difficult. Surprising many to finish in the top eight after six years of mediocrity, coach Stephen Kearney has a solid team to work with, yet it’s hard to imagine 2018 repeating given the club’s record of inconsistency at best and complete incompetence at worst.

Crystal Ball – Tries dry up for David Fusitua.

 

CS 2019 Graphic

The premiership window has closed.

After losing their coach and best player over the off-season, the Sharks are set to undergo a year of rebuilding. On paper the preliminary finalists appear to be in contention for another tilt at the premiership, but with so many off-field distractions, new coach John Morris will find things harder than first thought.

Crystal Ball – Shaun Johnson spends time at fullback.

 

PE 2019 Graphic

No spoon, no finals.

The only way is up after last season’s wooden spoon, however the top eight is still a while away for the Eels. Unlikely to repeat the catastrophic start that ended 2018 before it began, the introduction of highly-rated youngster Dylan Brown and veteran speedster Blake Ferguson will ensure the side avoids a consecutive 16th-placed finish. Managing a sole finals appearance over the past five years, Brad Arthur’s time at Parramatta looks set to come to a close unless things improve dramatically.

Crystal Ball – Clinton Gutherson signs with another club for 2020.

 

PP 2019 Graphic

Far from ‘Purr-fect’.

At their best Penrith are the complete rugby league team – fast, strong, tough. At their worst the same side has zero defensive fortitude. Being able to pull off a number of great escapes may work against lesser sides, but as evidenced by losing in the second week of the play-offs over the past three seasons, the Panthers have to improve their defence to maintain pace with the rest of the competition.

Crystal Ball – Key forward suffers season-ending injury before Easter.

 

NQC 2019 Graphic

Set to fall short with the game on the line.

The departure of Johnathan Thurston will take some time for the Cowboys to overcome, but of more immediate concern is their aging forward pack. While Jason Taumalolo, Jordan McLean, Coen Hess and marquee recruit Josh McGuire will keep the side in most matches, Matt Scott, Gavin Cooper and Scott Bolton are all on the wrong side of 30 and there appears to be a significant dearth of talent in between.

Crystal Ball – Kyle Feldt becomes only the second North Queensland player to score four tries in a match.

 

SGID 2019 Graphic

Final third to unravel once again.

Capable of winning the premiership, but coming up short too many times in the past, inconsistency will be the Dragons’ undoing. Set to offer a new dimension to their attack with Gareth Widdop at fullback in his final season down under, if the side doesn’t come into the finals in winning form, coach Paul McGregor could follow his skipper on the way out as well.

Crystal Ball – Matt Dufty scores 15+ tries on the wing.

 

C-BB 2019 Graphic

Top eight bolters.

Finishing last season on a high note after a disastrous start, coach Dean Pay will be better prepared to deal with the weekly grind of first grade rugby league coaching. Despite the loss of David Klemmer, the Bulldogs look a formidable presence in the front row, while the outside backs are unassuming but potent. A fit-and-firing Kieran Foran will give opponent plenty of cause for concern.

Crystal Ball – Josh Jackson earns a New South Wales recall.

 

CR 2019 Graphic

Narrow losses to become wins.

Had Josh Hodgson not missed the first half of 2018 through injury, the Raiders would have made the finals. With the influential English hooker fully fit and two of his fellow countrymen, John Bateman and Ryan Sutton, on board for good measure, the Green Machine will dominate teams with their monstrous forward pack. After a troubled year off the field, Jack Wighton’s move to the halves will enable Aidan Sezer to enjoy a career-best campaign.

Crystal Ball – Nick Cotric finishes the year as leading try-scorer with 19.

 

GCT 2019 Graphic

The shock improvers of 2019.

Making several smart investments over the off-season, coach Garth Brennan has a squad capable of scoring points. Losing four matches last year by two points or less, a greater focus on defence will see the Titans capitalise upon a lot of teams expecting a guaranteed two points. Ashley Taylor is capable of playing representative football this year, but even if his form wanes, Tyrone Roberts and Ryley Jacks will prove to be quiet achievers for the Queensland outfit.

Crystal Ball – A high scoring win sees the Titans post 50 points for the first time in history.

 

NK 2019 Graphic

Newcastle – the most dreaded away trip in the NRL.

If Mitchell Pearce stays fit, Newcastle have the talent to win the premiership. Adding David Klemmer and Jesse Ramien to a side already containing the best young player in the game, Kalyn Ponga, the major sticking point for the Knights will be their ability to improve upon last season’s second worst defensive record. Set to draw home crowds in excess of 20,000 on a regular basis, opposition teams will know they’re in a match against the Knights.

Crystal Ball – Daniel Saifiti evokes Fuifui Moimoi, circa 2009, as the most dominant prop over the final third of the season.

 

MS 2019 Graphic

Solid, but beatable.

Cameron Smith may be the last man standing from Melbourne’s ‘Big Three’, but despite the changing of the guard, the Storm are too good not to be in contention for the premiership. Holding onto all bar two players from the team beaten by the Roosters last September, coach Craig Bellamy will be sure to turn another player on the rugby league scrap pile into treasure.

Crystal Ball – Will Chambers considers an early release after multi-year offer from overseas club.

 

SSR 2019 Graphic

Top four, yes. Premiers, unknown.

After knocking back an approach to join the Bunnies seven years ago, Wayne Bennett will maintain the platform laid by the man he swapped jobs with. Boasting one of the best spines in the competition – Inglis, Walker, Reynolds and Cook – the Rabbitohs will give themselves every opportunity of improving upon last season’s top four finish.

Crystal Ball – Greg Inglis brings forward retirement plans and hang up the boots at season’s end.

 

BB 2019 Graphic

Young guns to make a mark.

With the coaching drama sorted, expect to see Anthony Seibold do for Brisbane what he did at South Sydney. Blessed with a destructive pack of young forwards eager to rip in, the much-maligned halves partnership of Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford will silence their critics in a big way.

Crystal Ball – David Fifita debuts for Queensland in Origin 3.

 

SR 2019 Graphic

The team to beat.

When comparing the reigning premiers against the other 15 NRL clubs, it’s hard to see where Trent Robinson’s side falls short. Losing just three members of the Grand Final winning squad and adding NSW representative Angus Crichton and experienced finisher Brett Morris to an already strong roster, the Roosters look set to become the first team in over two decades to go back-to-back.

Crystal Ball – James Tedesco runs for 400 metres in a single game.

 


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2019 League Unlimited Articles

Season Previews
North Queensland Cowboys
Newcastle Knights
Manly Sea Eagles
Gold Coast Titans
South Sydney Rabbitohs

Pre-Season Fixtures
Indigenous All Stars v New Zealand Maori All Stars
World Club Challenge – Wigan Warriors v Sydney Roosters

Round 1
Storm v Broncos preview
Storm v Broncos report
Warriors v Bulldogs preview
Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
Cowboys v Dragons preview

Round 2
Dragons v Rabbitohs preview
Dragons v Rabbitohs report
Raiders v Storm preview
Sea Eagles v Roosters preview

Round 3
Eels v Roosters preview
Manly v Warriors report
Panthers v Storm preview
Tigers v Bulldogs preview

Round 4
Warriors v Titans preview
Sea Eagles v Rabbitohs preview
Cowboys v Raiders preview
Eels v Sharks preview

Round 5
Broncos v Tigers preview
Titans v Panthers preview
Dragons v Bulldogs preview

Round 6
Sharks v Panthers preview
Bulldogs v Rabbitohs preview
Storm v Roosters preview
Dragons v Sea Eagles preview

Round 7
Storm v Warriors preview
Storm v Warriors report
Bulldogs v Cowboys preview
Panthers v Rabbitohs preview
Tigers v Titans preview

Round 8
Rabbitohs v Broncos preview
Sharks v Storm preview
Raiders v Panthers preview
Eels v Dragons preview

Round 9
Titans v Sharks preview
Titans v Sharks report
Sea Eagles v Broncos preview
Sea Eagles v Broncos report
Warriors v Dragons preview
Roosters v Raiders preview

Round 10
Storm v Tigers report
Panthers v Warriors preview
Broncos v Roosters preview
Cowboys v Eels preview
Raiders v Rabbitohs preview

The Best Films of 2018

In formulating a list of my favourite films of 2018 it was rather difficult narrowing it down to just ten. Having seen close to 100 new releases this year there were no shortage of quality films, so before getting to my best picks I wanted to highlight a few Honourable Mentions that I either enjoyed or admired, but ultimately fell short of making the final cut.

1985A Simple Favour, A Star is BornAnnihilation, Bad Times at the El RoyaleBao, Blockers, Can You Ever Forgive Me?Cargo, Creed II, First Reformed, Leave No Trace, Minding the GapOverlordThe Hate U Give.

Note: As mentioned with my previous lists I haven’t seen every film released in 2018. There are no objective criteria in determining the placement of each film – all that matters is that I loved each of these films and highly recommend you seek them out for yourself!


10. Bumblebee / Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

In a time where sequels and reboots have become ubiquitous, these two films found new life into stories that have been well worn. More than merely surpassing the low bar of the Transformers series, the direction of Travis Knight worked wonders for Bumblebee in telling a compelling and identifiable story revolving around giant fighting robots. Referencing the history of the storied character while being accessible for all audiences, the visual style and humour of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse made for an immensely enjoyable superhero film, arguably among the finest ever made.

Bumblebee Spiderman 


9. Disobedience

Filled with tension and intrigue as to what went down in the past, the recoupled relationship between the two Rachel’s – Weisz and McAdams – sensually captures a vivid sense of place within London’s Orthodox Jewish community. Intimate in its setting and character interactions, Sebastian Lelio’s first English language feature, Disobedience, transports viewers into a world that appears foreign on the surface, only for very recognisable family conflict to emerge.

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8. The Night Comes For Us

Many terrific American action films have been released in the 2010s, but most pale in comparison to the ultraviolent awesomeness coming out of Indonesia. Similar to Gareth Evans’ The Raid films, The Night Comes For Us is a master class in the artistry of killing. Relentless in transitioning between fight scenes, the story of an enforcer protecting a young girl amid gang warfare is largely secondary to Timo Tjahjanto’s mesmerising choreography and bloody effects.

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7. Come Sunday

As someone who holds a strange interest in films made by and about Christianity (despite being agnostic), Come Sunday is nuanced in showing the importance of faith, while being willing to question the very thing that can shape someone’s entire identity. Based on the This American Life feature on real life evangelist Carlton Pearson, Chiwetel Ejiofor shines as the conflicted man of god whose outsider struggles are sure to resonate – irrespective of personal beliefs.

Come Sunday - Chiwetel Ejiofor (Netflix.com, 2018)


6. Sorry To Bother You

For as twisted as Boots Riley’s directorial debut becomes, there is a serious message presented in Sorry To Bother You with very real implication. Loaded with ideas about race, class and identity, the struggle for economic security rings true in a time where trickle down economics has become apart of mainstream political discourse; yet for as unwavering as the film is in its intentions, the style and humour remains entertainingly accessible.

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5. Widows

From the opening scene of Widows I was enthralled by the latest from Steve McQueen. Much like his earlier films, especially Hunger, the British artist/director seemingly presents a particular type of film – in this case, a heist – only to deviate from the expected conventions. Boasting a stellar ensemble, including a spine-chilling turn from Daniel Kaluuya, the heist itself may lack the glossy sheen of Ocean’s 8, but makes up for it in substance and filmic craft.

WIDOWS 


4. Eighth Grade

Gut wrenching and incredibly empathetic all at once, Eighth Grade could easily be repurposed as a horror film given the way recognisable moments of teenage angst are depicted. There were multiple times throughout I wanted nothing more than for Kayla (Elsie Fisher) to be shown the slightest display of compassion by her peers – all too often her pain was achingly real, so to see another teenager finally act with kindness towards her filled my soul in the knowledge she would be ok.

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3. Juliet, Naked

I came into the latest adaptation of Nick Hornby’s work with no expectations and left utterly delighted having experienced the most charming hidden gem of 2018. Starting out reminiscent of the English writer’s previous interests in 30-something males and their obsessions, Juliet, Naked remains familiar but from a different perspective. Featuring a trio of layered performances from Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and scene-stealer Chris O’Dowd, the film understands how people become stuck in their lives while treating its characters with empathy in spite of what they have (or haven’t) done.

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2. Lean On Pete

Emotionally devastating in telling the story of a teenage boy needing to find his feet following family tragedy – “when you don’t have anywhere else to go you’re kind of stuck” – Charlie Plummer gives one of the best performances of the year in Lean On Pete. Based on a book by Willy Vlautin, director Andrew Haigh breathes in the beautiful American scenery, while James Edward Barker’s score heightens the uncertainty as young Charley plans for today in order to keep an aging racehorse from ‘heading down to Mexico’.

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1. BlacKkKlansman

Set in the 1970s but unnervingly relevant in 2018, veteran director Spike Lee delivered his most accessible film in years with BlacKkKlansman. Walking a fine tonal line throughout, the ugliness of white supremacy is purposely presented to make audiences uncomfortable, while still being a film filled with humour, introspection and most memorably, joy. John David Washington echoes his legendary father in the leading role, Terence Blanchard contributes one of the best scores of the year, while Topher Grace and Ashlie Atkinson embody how hatred and division are masked behind affable veneers. Unapologetic in alluding to the current state of politics, the final sequence demands your attention by holding a mirror up to the world emboldened by ‘agent orange’ with unflinching urgency. There were many great films released over the past 12 months, but few brought about a response as strong as BlacKkKlansman.

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Check out other instalments in my 2018 YEAR IN REVIEW:

2018 Memorable Moments in Film
The Best Songs of 2018
The Worst Films of 2018

‘Bumblebee’ movie review

It is overly simplistic to attribute the success of the latest Transformers film Bumblebee on the absence of Michael Bay, but given the restrained action, engaging characters and enjoyable tone the easiest deduction is likely the right one.

Directed by Travis Knight in his first live-action outing following the stop-motion success of Kubo and the Two Strings, the prequel to 2007’s Transformers opts against the worst tendencies of its predecessors in favour of a smaller-scale story about outsiders seeking acceptance, reminiscent of 2017 Best Picture winner The Shape of Water crossed with 80’s references.

Opening on a CGI-heavy sequence on the Transformer’s home world of Cybertron, the heroic Autobots are forced to flee from the warring Decepticons in order to regroup on the distant planet of Earth. Arriving in 1987 with enemies in pursuit, B-127 (voiced by Dylan O’Brien, The Maze Runner) encounters a military task force headed up by Jack Burns (John Cena, Blockers) whose immediate instincts are of the threat posed by the foreign arrival. Forced into hiding and without the use of his voice due to further conflict, 18-year-old Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit) discovers the wounded Autobot in a junkyard before donning him with the moniker Bumblebee. With Charlie dealing with her own hardship following the passing of her father, the relationship between the unlikely pair blossoms, all the while government agents and the Decepticons remain on the hunt with their own nefarious agendas.

Familiar to a fault, there are few narrative surprises to be found in the screenplay from Christina Hodson (Unforgettable), yet for whatever derivative elements are present, the charm and emotional core of Bumblebee more than merely surpasses the incredibly low bar of the series to stand on its own as the type of blockbuster sure to appeal to all ages through its universal themes.

Critics of the series have long bemoaned the incomprehensible action and weak human characters reheated to diminishing returns over the past decade, but in narrowing the scale to a character-driven level, the action set pieces are spaced out efficiently, while Steinfeld echoes her terrific turn in The Edge of Seventeen (minus the intense misanthropy) to give audiences a protagonist worth investing in. Supporting roles from Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Love, Simon) and John Ortiz (Fast & Furious) enhance the overall story, while the 1980’s setting makes for an enjoyable soundtrack with a touch of nostalgia for fans of the original cartoon.

In a time where pre-existing properties and sequels reign supreme at the box-office, Bumblebee proves that when done right a blockbuster action film based on action figures doesn’t have to be a cynical exercise in exploiting childhood nostalgia. Just as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse managed to change the way audiences think about one of the most beloved superheroes, Bumblebee is the live-action Transformers film to seek out rather than avoid.

The Worst Films of 2018

In previous years I’ve made an active effort to seek out the worst films possible for the primary purpose of having ammunition for an annual worst of list. Not being a paid critic my approach has softened recently, but alas 2018 still managed to inflict a number of releases for which my time could have been better spent.

The criteria for what makes a film worthy of being one of the ‘worst’ is largely contestable, but as with most year-end lists the selections are entirely subjective.


Before getting into the official list, a few Dishonourable Mentions that contained just enough redeeming qualities to avoid complete derision.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Following up 2015’s Sicario, the Stefano Sollima directed sequel features elements worthy of recommendation, particularly the performances from Benecio del Toro and Isabela Moner. However, in such a vicious political climate the opening 20-minutes of the film makes for uncomfortable viewing as people seeking asylum are depicted in a manner that fuels the hateful rhetoric espoused in the MAGA era. Released around the same time vision of children being forcibly separated from their parents and detained in cages demonstrated the lack of humanity shown by the current US administration, the set-up of Sicario: Day of the Soldado is repulsive before settling into an effective action-thriller that goes some way towards cleansing the misguided opening.

Private Life

I recognise that I am not the target audience for the latest film from Tamara Jenkins. As a 23-year-old with no aspirations to start a family in the short-term, I can see how audiences with greater life experience would get a great deal from Private Life. That said – I found the three leading characters to be unbearable in their self-absorption. When people use the term ‘white people problems’ derisively, this is what they are referring to. I’m not so bold as to suggest the personal challenges faced by middle-aged financially independent individuals lack any legitimacy; for a terrific example of how this type of film works incredibly well, I recommend Mike White’s 2017 drama Brad’s Status. I cannot say in good faith this is a bad film, but I did find watching it to be incredibly testing of my patience.

Gotti 

Off the back of terrible reviews and a loathsome marketing campaign designed to malign critics, my curiosity in seeing Gotti ended anticlimactically. Does it warrant a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes? No. Is it any good? Not really. Amid all the animosity generated my response was boredom; in a less toxic media culture this film wouldn’t warrant a mention, such is its blandness.


5. Bohemian Rhapsody

As someone who grew up loving the greatest hits of Queen I wanted Bohemian Rhapsody to be great. Instead the “Brian Singer directed” music-biopic presents the story of a creatively ambitious group in the most generic of ways – imagine Walk Hard without a shred of irony. While the musical performances skilfully convey a sense of excitement, the context in which Queen and Freddie Mercury exists within is so poorly developed that unless you come in already knowing about this period, you get no sense of what Queen’s success meant. What does it mean to grow up of Parsi descent? Why was Live Aid a significant cultural event? What was it like to be diagnosed with AIDS during a time of political and cultural hostility towards queer people? The film is not interested in any of these details. Above all the biggest issue with the film is how boring it is – I struggle to recall such a squandered waste of potential in recent memory.

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4. Unfunny Comedies (Night School / The Spy Who Dumped Me / Pitch Perfect 3)

Technically a cheat by listing multiple films under one slot; a common thread unites the three selections of not being funny despite the descriptor of ‘comedy’. Boasting star-studded casts who have demonstrated genuine laughs in the past, the combination of a lack of structure (Night School), tonal inconsistencies (The Spy Who Dumped Me) and deviating so far from what made the original delightful (Pitch Perfect 3) left me deflated having been promised laughs that never arrived. In a year that saw Game Night, Blockers, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse generate big laughs in inventive, emotional and self-referential ways, there were plenty of accessible studio comedies that warranted greater attention than the trio highlighted.

Unfunny Comedies


3. Life of the Party

What distinguishes the latest Melissa McCarthy star vehicle above the other unfunny comedies mentioned above is the structural incompetence displayed. There is a solid premise in a middle-aged woman going back to college after being left for another woman by her husband, but what follows is a collection of disparate scenes that could be assembled in any order with no impact on the film’s structure. The jokes are rarely sighted with the exception of one hilarious payoff involving the son of the other woman, but it is little consolation for a film in which nothing matters. There are no stakes, the character progression rings false and above all it isn’t consistently funny. In the hands of a better writer and director Life of the Party may not have been a film fondly remembered in years to come, but it wouldn’t be the total waste of time and talent it is.

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2. The Kindergarten Teacher

Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a good performance in one of the worst films I’ve seen for a number of years – these two thoughts can co-exist. Adapted from a 2014 Israeli film of the same name, writer/director Sara Colangelo’s second feature subscribes to a misguided view of creativity that becomes outright offensive through the actions of Gyllenhaal’s character. The Kindergarten Teacher would have viewers believe that abusing a position of authority by kidnapping a child is the tragic road taken by people who have been creatively suffocated by a world that doesn’t value art. On its own the idea of society not appreciating creativity is not without merits, but the manner in which the final shot of the film condones Gyllenhaal’s actions was an affront that I took to be a personal middle finger from the filmmaker. The only reason the philosophy of The Kindergarten Teacher avoided the ignominy of being the ‘worst film of 2018’ was that something even more reprehensible screened in theatres this year.

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1. Death of a Nation / The Trump Prophecy

In selecting a joint worst film in which the multiple-times bankrupt charlatan currently residing in the White House plays a prominent role, my own political leanings factor in less than the dangerous claims made by the respective filmmakers. Having watched several of Dinesh D’Souza’s previous ‘documentaries’ (in the loosest use of the term), the revisionist history espoused exists only to appease individuals wanting to legitimise their own prejudices, while provoking those with enough intelligence to know that the ideas put forth are false into fits of rage. Where Death of a Nation is filled with heinous lies in the name of political point scoring, The Trump Prophecy seeks to bore viewers into submission before presenting *that man* as ‘”the one anointed by god to return America to its greatness” with no case made in favour or against him. The wilful ignorance displayed by director Stephan Schultze is debatably more egregious than D’Souza’s revisionist history in that no justification is needed when “god wills it”, but for as derisible as the film’s politics are the technical qualities displayed are nothing short of inept. In a time of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’, the ideas proposed by these two films aren’t just grating, but intellectually offensive in blatantly disregarding evidence that fails to align with a predetermined worldview.

Trump 2018


Check out other instalments in my 2018 YEAR IN REVIEW – 2018 Memorable Moments in Film and The Best Songs of 2018.

The Best Songs of 2018

In the second instalment of 2018 YEAR IN REVIEW, check out the 10 songs I’ll be voting for in the Triple J Hottest 100.

I don’t pretend to be well versed in the biggest commercial / alternative hits of the year; the songs selected resonated with me over the past 12 months. Some have carried through since January while others are newfound favourites.

Note: Some of the selections are reworked versions released by the original artist in previous years. The order of the list is largely arbitrary, the criteria used to elevate #7 above #8 is based upon my thoughts at the time of writing. However, the top half is a strong representation of my 2018 musical preferences.


#10. ‘Still Unbeaten Life’ – Gang of Youths

Officially released as part of the Let Me Be Clear EP in 2016 (although a demo version appeared on The Positions as a digital exclusive), the closing track of Gang of Youths’ MTV Unplugged (Live in Melbourne) encompasses the band’s strongest attributes for emotionally profound lyrics and compositions boasting spiritual qualities. With the live orchestra and brass complementing the grandeur of frontman David Le’aupepe’s lyrics, Still Unbeaten Life is more than just a fan favourite – it’s one of the band’s defining songs.

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#9. ‘Orc Cop!’ – Rap Critic

Remember Bright, the Netflix original film starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton as a human-orc buddy cop duo? You would be forgiven for failing to recall the fantasy / racial allegory, however it did lead to a spot on parody from online music reviewer Rap Critic (aka Daren Jackson / Masta Artisan). Penned in collaboration with Demi Adejuyigbe for Lindsay Ellis’ phenomenal analysis of the critically derided film, Orc Cop! goes beyond simply parodying the mannerisms of Will Smith’s late-90’s soundtrack tie-ins to become a great example of how sampling old R&B hits (Stevie Wonder’s Skeletons is incorporated excellently) can enhance new tracks.

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#8. ‘The Idiot’ – Amy Shark

In an era of hyperbolic overpraise and outrage, I feel comfortable declaring Amy Shark’s Adore a perfect pop song among the best of the decade. Capturing a universal sense of angst and longing, it’s unlikely she’ll pen anything that evocative again – but even if songs like The Idiot aren’t on par with her best, she remains a resonant talent to emerge out of Australia in recent years. Retaining the same sense of vivid details and vulnerability that made Adore instantly memorable, The Idiot paints a picture of emotional naivety while being mature enough to know that in spite of heartache life goes on.

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#7. ‘77%’ – The Herd ft. L-FRESH the LION

Originally released back in 2003 in response to the racist rhetoric perpetuated in the wake of the Tampa refugee crisis, the sentiment of The Herd’s provocative track remains dispiritingly relevant in 2018. Retaining the same venom in Ozi Batla’s verses, the fury brought by L-FRESH the LION manifests into the best rap verse of the year. Taking aim at the bipartisan policy of detaining people seeking asylum, racially motivated fear mongering used by conservative politicians to win votes and a shout out to 2PAC for good measure, the updated 77% may be less profane, but just as incendiary.

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#6. ‘Nice For What’ – Drake

As someone who enjoyed Take Careera Drake, the ubiquitous presence and praise of the former Degrassi star has been a dog whistle I’ve been unable to hear in recent times. With his latest album Scorpion being a torturously overlong 90-minutes, Nice For What is the kinetic antithesis from his usual boredom-inducing MO. Boasting a pulse of life and interesting braggadocio that made Forever and HYFR memorable, Drake showed that at his best he can produce an undeniable banger.

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#5. ‘Arrest The President’ – Ice Cube

Following up last year’s bombastic police brutality anthem Good Cop, Bad Cop, one of the pioneers of gangsta rap delivered another solid latter day entry, this time taking aim at Donald Trump. Far from the first to use music to express vitriol for the current POTUS (see YG’s FDT), Ice Cube’s musical return to form Arrest The President shows that far from merely playfully winking at his intimidating image, he can still flex his lyrical muscles with a strong beat to back him up.

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#4. ‘All The Stars’ – Kendrick Lamar ft. SZA 

At the risk of being labelled an iconoclast for finding Black Panther *fine*, my feelings towards the soundtrack album’s lead single have only grown over time. Among the year’s first big singles released back in January, the combination of Kendrick Lamar and SZA works tremendously in tandem with the production from Soundwave and Al Shux to create a lighter vibe without compromising quality. Following up a string of critically acclaimed albums with the versatility to deviate into commercial sensibilities, All The Stars adds to a compelling case for Kendrick Lamar as the premier rapper of the 2010s – especially given the waning quality of Kanye West.

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#3. ‘Confidence’ – Ocean Alley

Tight. Smooth. Soulful. These words and more aptly describe Confidence from Ocean Alley’s second full-length release Chiaroscruo, but the best fit for the Sydney outfit’s single is timeless. Boasting a terrific baseline and lyrics that give simplicity a good name, it is easy to envision it fitting in amongst AOR hits of the 70s, while possessing the groove to stand out on its own merits in 2018.

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#2. ‘The Story of Adidon’ – Pusha T

The history of hip hop is littered with feuds between rappers delivering diss tracks back and forth in an effort to claim ultimate bragging rights. Embodied by the likes of Hit ‘Em Up, F*** wit Dre Day and the pinnacle of the sub-genre No Vaseline, 2018’s most memorable face off saw Pusha T silence Drake with a verbal assault titled The Story of Adidon. Incorporating the beat from Jay-Z’s The Story of OJ, the three-minute track takes time to launch into proceedings, but after taking aim at the Canadian rapper’s artistry, cultural identity and paternal status only the most partisan of Drake stans could have any doubt over the feud’s victor.

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#1. ‘Straight To You’ – Gang of Youths

I make no apologies for loving the music of Gang of Youths. In a short period of time they have become a band I want to hear new releases from along with the music that informed their own creative decisions. Similarly producing my favourite song of 2017 with a cover of The Middle East’s Blood, David Le’aupepe and co. possess the ability to take the words of others and transcend them into compositions that feel akin to the modern classics of The Positions and Go Farther In Lightness. Some may deem choosing a 26-year-old Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds cover as a betrayal of annual best of lists, but having carried the emotionally affecting song with me since March, I can think of no greater representation of my musical love in 2018 than Straight To You.

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Voting for the Triple J Hottest 100 opens December 10, 2018 before closing on January 22, 2019 at 9am (AEDT). The full countdown of the year’s most popular songs – as voted by you – takes place from midday on Sunday, January 27. Vote Now.