Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Goodbye 2017. I always feel a tinge of sadness as we move into a new year. It all went so quickly but then as I look at my list of the 32 movies I saw at the cinema this year, it also feels so long ago. Before I crack on with my top 10 films of the year, let's discuss a few notable ones that didn't make the list. Star Wars: The Last Jedi failed to win me over as it was quite boring in places. I've seen Dunkirk high upon many end-of-year lists but despite its visual excellence, the dogfights in particular, I found it too static. John Wick 2 and Atomic Blonde work as good companion pieces if you want to put on a double bill with a high body count. I think it was also a great year for women in cinema - Jackie, Elle, Lady Macbeth and Prevenge among a number of fine female-led movies. There were a couple of real stinkers too, notably Alien rip-off Life and Murder on the Orient Express, both fighting it out for Worst Film of 2017. So let's take a look at my top 10...
Ten Logan
Logan redefines a genre that had already been redefined before with Nolan's Batman trilogy (even more so if you've watched 'Logan Noir', the black and white version of this movie). Now it was Marvel's turn to make an IRL comic book film and Logan delivers successfully. Really enjoyed watching Jackman and Sir Pat Stew being allowed to have fun with their characters (Wolverine, Prof X), dropping F-bombs all over the show and generally putting on a fine double act while carnage happens all around. Fitting way for these 2 to bow out after 17 years. Think Steptoe and Son with claws.
You may also like: The Wolverine, Watchmen, The Prestige
Nine Wonder Woman
The 2nd of three comic book movies to make my top 10, WW became the 1st DC Universe film since Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises that didn't suck. In fact, it's rather good. Gal Gadot kicks some serious ass while indulging in some comedic horseplay with Chris Pine's fighter pilot/spy, heroically named Steve Trevor, keeping the whole film moving along without any moment to pause. Plenty of action, capers and scenery changes, and all just about on the right side of silly.
You may also like: Lucy, Kill Bill, Salt
Eight Baby Driver
When I saw the trailer for Baby Driver, my anticipation levels shot through the roof. It looked amazing with great characters and a hero who might be able to rival Drive in the cool stakes. After seeing the film, I must admit feeling slightly disappointed. It's still a great film, really tight and with some great action set-pieces but it just didn't live up to the hype for me. I didn't relate to Baby like I did to Driver, the car chase scenes (bar the one great manoeuvre you see in the trailer) didn't amount to much and the soundtrack, which is constant throughout the film, really got on my nerves. That being said, I've been a big fan of Edgar Wright ever since Spaced and this film comes with all his trademark shots and beats. Baby Driver feels like it could be a graphic novel in the way that's filmed and Wright's directing makes up for the movie's pretty average dialogue.
You may also like: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Drive, Pulp Fiction, Kick Ass
Seven 20th Century Women
A bon vivant single mother's attempt raise her son with the help of 2 younger women in 1979 sounds like the kind of tv movie I would steer clear of, but a great cast of Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig really heightened this touching and charming story. The fantastic soundtrack maybe also helped this film into my top 10 and I think the Santa Barbara location with it's big old cars, clothes and just the sweaty humidity really transported me to late 70's California and had me leaving the cinema wanting to take a trip. Plus any film with Greta Gerwig gets my vote.
You may also like: Frances Ha, Almost Famous, Dead Poet's Society
Six Manchester by the Sea
January 2017 was a miserablist's paradise at the cinema. Having already seen Scorsese's moody period piece Silence and tearjerking fantasy A Monster Calls (both just missing out on a top 10 spot), I went into 'Manchester by the Sea' already a bit battered and bruised emotionally. Kenneth Lonergan's essay on grief and loss is a very stark and bleak film but absolutely stunning and beautiful at the same time. Casey Affleck puts in a muted powerhouse performance with very little dialogue. His character Lee Chandler, already heartbroken and reclusive has to snap out of his waking coma to attend to another family tragedy, reluctantly fulfilling his obligations while battling personal demons. Michelle Williams is only in the film for about 10 minutes but her powerful scene with Affleck earned her an Oscar nomination and a Best Actor statuette for him.
You may also like: A Ghost Story, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Five Thor: Ragnarok
Get past the muddling first 10 minutes of this film and you're in for a treat. Director Taika Waititi ditches the seriousness and pomp of the previous Thor movies and goes for out-and-out comedy, an inspired decision which brings out the best of an excellent cast. Hemsworth and Hiddleston's chemistry is allowed even more room to breathe and the new characters are a welcome additions to the franchise, none more so that Jeff Goldblum's ridiculous Grand Master and Waititi's scene-stealing Korg. I had so much fun watching this film and I can easily declare it the best Marvel movies so far.
You may also like: Avengers Assemble, What We Do In The Shadows, Withnail & I
Four La La Land
Hey girl, anyone who knows me will know I'm #teamryangosling and he got my 2017 started on the right foot (or is it the left foot?) with this all-singing, all-dancing ode to the golden age of Hollywood. Gosling and Emma Stone team up for the 3rd time on screen as two young hopefuls trying to catch a break in showbusiness and the consequences that success can have on a relationship. That Oscars gaffe will have stolen the headlines and many will have been put off by the prospect of having to watch a musical but it's a stunning movie, hitting all the right comedic, romantic and musical notes. The songs are fantastic too - I've been humming 'City of Stars' for the last 12 months.
You may also like: Crazy, Stupid, Love, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Blue Valentine
Three Toni Erdmann
A three-hour German comedy? In the top 10 films of 2017? Most definitely yes. Toni Erdmann was the biggest surprise of the year about a prank-loving dad visiting his workaholic daughter in Bucharest, creating an alter-ego as her personal life-coach and ultimately teaching her (and the movie-going audience) the benefits of not taking life so seriously. The humour is very German, one of many reasons why a mooted remake with Kristen Wiig and Jack Nicholson just seems like a terrible idea (another being that most of the dialogue here is in English anyway), and this film has several LOL moments, but it's the touching moments of love and sweetness between Toni and his super-serious daughter Ines that make it an oddball masterpiece.
You may also like: Lost in Translation, The Royal Tenenbaums
Two Blade Runner 2049
Hey girl, did I say that I'm #teamryangosling? Then it's no surprise to see the sequel to 1982's Blade Runner at second spot in my top 10. This film is just gorgeous to look at. You'll hear the name Roger Deakins mentioned a lot as we head into awards season and his cinematography here deserves to win him a statuette (check out his CV - a who's who of great looking movies). I'm a huge fan of director Denis Villeneuve and coming off the back of Arrival, Sicario and Enemy, I couldn't wait to see his take on Ridley's Scott's Blade Runner universe and I was justly rewarded with one of the best Sci-Fi films ever made. The 2h44m running time flew by for me and my only negative was Jared Leto's god-like villain Niander Wallace who failed to get enough screen time or story arc to make an impact, but to be honest, Sylvia Hoeks' sinister replicant Luv provides enough menace for the both of them. Harrison Ford follows up his good work in The Force Awakens throwing and taking plenty of punches along the way, proving there's life in the old dog yet and giving everyone hope that the next Indiana Jones film won't be another Crystal Skull-sized turkey. And then there's Gosling; minimal dialogue, good threads and behind-the-eyes emotion of a wounded dog. This is the kind of role he was born to play and gives Agent K several layers to hide beneath that now-iconic leather-shearling jacket.
You may also like: Blade Runner, Serenity, Ex-Machina
One The Handmaiden
Deception, erotica, twists, turns and oh God, those bells! My top film in 2017 was 'The Handmaiden', a Korean adaptation of the novel Fingersmith by Welsh author Sarah Waters. Set in 1930s Korea, a young woman is hired to be the handmaiden to a Japanese heiress who lives with her authoritarian uncle, but all is not what they seem. Both leading actresses, Min-hee Kim and Tae-ri Kim, are terrific as mistress and subordinate, and even more so once their roles begin to reverse in one of the most brilliant plots (and plot twists) I've seen on film. It's sexy, funny and so, so, so stylish - not a surprise coming from director Chan-wook Park who brought us 2013's dark thriller Stoker. You won't know who's side to be on until the very end but once the credits role you'll feel immensely satisfied. It's not a movie to watch with Granny as the sex scenes are a little racy but do check it out on DVD or Amazon streaming
You may also like: Wild Things, The Prestige, Silence

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