The final part of the 2018 Entertainment Top 25 as chosen by the entertainment obsessives at Red Bee.
5. They Shall Not Grow Old
So much has already been written about this magnificent piece of factual film making that it's difficult to know what to add. The breathtaking gear change from jerky black and white to colour and sound with an "only happened yesterday" feel is the moment that has been most celebrated. For us, though, the impact is at its most dramatic in the scenes of teenage German POWs working alongside their British counterparts helping stricken comrades. Somehow the fact that you can now discern grey uniforms with red trim from khaki uniforms makes the images so much more poignant. If this extraordinary film had been made compulsory viewing for all UK citizens on 22nd June 2016, we wonder if history would have turned out differently.
4. The Lehman Trilogy
A play that charts over 150 years of Western capitalism, told through the lives of the Lehman dynasty, from the arrival of the three brothers in 1840s America right up until the devastating crash of 2008. Sam Mendes' production at the National Theatre brilliantly reduced the cast of many down to three phenomenal British actors. Ben Miles, Adam Godley and Simon Russell Beale played each brother, their descendants and every character from a newborn baby to a tightrope walker. It was a gripping 3.5 hours of theatre and an acting tour de force.
3. The Defiant Ones
Made by HBO and now available on Netflix, The Defiant Ones is a four-part documentary that gives a behind-the-scenes perspective on the careers and partnership of music producers Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Part music documentary, part business course, the narrative darts from coast to coast as it charts their respective journeys in California and New York, culminating in the pair working together to create Beats Electronics, which they eventually sold to Apple in 2014 for $3 billion. The high-flying jet-setting climax is interesting, but it’s the lesser-known stories of their early years that are most fascinating, brought to life through an exclusive archive of footage and photographs: from Iovine getting his big break as a sound engineer when he’s the only person available to work when John Lennon wants to record, through to Dr Dre DJing in full scrubs and face mask in his early World Class Wreckin’ Cru stage shows. And speaking of exclusive, the calibre of the talking heads is unparalleled: Bono, Stevie Nicks, Bruce Springsteen, Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani, Patti Smith. Even the notoriously shy Dre protégé Eminem gives an interview. The series picked up the Grammy for best Music Film, garnered five Emmy nominations, and director Allen Hughes (of Menace II Society fame) won the NAACP Award for Outstanding Direction in a Documentary. Deservedly so, he has crafted one of the finest, and most thrilling, documentaries of our time. Also worth noting is the excellent choice of theme tune: none other than Ennio Morricone’s pounding soundtrack from gangster classic The Untouchables.
2. The Void - Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire
After years of trying out VR experiences around the world, finally we've encountered one that is deserving of the hype. No, it's not just deserving, it's utterly outstanding. Wearing a headset and full haptic suit, you and your companions enter a room to collect your weapons, then embark on a full shoot-em-up mission against an army of Stormtroopers. The production values are phenomenal, as one would expect from LucasFilm. Everything you shoot reacts, and every time you get shot, you feel it. Even a bubbling lake of lava seemingly way beneath you appears to give off heat. It’s terrifying, disorientating, and the closest you will ever come to feeling like you’ve truly spent time in the Star Wars universe. Briefly available for Brits during a pop-up in Westfield in early 2018, it is currently only running the US and Canada, although the website promises a return to the UK soon. It’ll be worth the wait.
The drama we all watched most avidly in 2018. How could anything top this acerbic dissection of a dysfunctional family vying for control of a giant media conglomerate? A polished HBO drama injected with searing British wit courtesy of a crackling script from Jesse Armstrong, and an excellently grotesque ensemble cast including Brian Cox, Matthew Macfadyen, and Kieran Culkin. Macfadyen, in particular, demonstrated so soon after his contrasting performance in the outstanding Howard’s End that he really is one of the finest British actors of his generation. We all became quickly addicted to Succession in a way that recalled the early seasons of House of Cards and, for those of us old enough to remember, the heady days of glossy dramas like Dallas. We were appalled by the characters and their excesses yet, at the same time, we found ourselves affectionately rooting for them. Also, the theme tune was hands down the best on TV this year: as The Guardian put it better than we could, capturing Succession’s “whiff of disgusting luxury” and “undercurrent of malevolent absurdity”. Our unanimous choice for the best entertainment experience of 2018.