Tuesday, 2 January 2018

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2017


After the event filled year that was 2016, I was hoping that a travel through 2017 would be a calmer one. If you put aside everything that happened in the real world and focus on movies, I'd say that wish came true. Let's not talk about Trump, Teresa of that time I narrowly missed a terrorist attack by an hour. It's time to talk movies, specifically my top 10 of the year!

There were a few surprising trends in the multiplexes this year. A number of long-awaited sequels and reboots were surprisingly good. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle left me smiling after I was intent on hating it. It effortlessly bought on the Stephen King scares it made all the crap adaptations seem even more worthless. And Blade Runner 2049, despite the expected detractors who probably didn't care much for the original, absolutely wowed me.

Big budget animation also took a hit this year. After two stonkers in 2016 (Zootropolis & Moana), Disney's animation output had to rely solely on Pixar. With Coco not coming to the UK until January, that left us Brits with Cars 3. Ugh. Despicable Me 3 reminded everyone how sick they are of the minions and the Boss Baby, Ferdinand and Captain Underpants flooded the market with unmemorable blandness. The Emoji Movie must have laws put against it for cruel and unusual punishment. The two LEGO movies - Batman and Ninjago - were good though the law of diminishing returns can be seen more obviously in its microcosm. Surely the CG cartoon bubble (and the superhero one come to think of it) is close to bursting.

By far the worst thing to happen to movies in 2017 - even more than The Emoji Movie - is the closing down of IMDB's message boards. They say it's because of trolls, but any seasoned user of social media should know how to mentally block them out. I now have no legitimate reason to use the site except to find out if I really saw Ade Edmondson in The Last Jedi. For those looking for an alternative, I recommend Movie Chat - it needs more users.

Also is there anything Disney doesn't own?

There are many great movies of 2017 - a larger list than last year - and I've whittled those that I've seen down to my personal Top 10. As ever, if you fancy giving one a purchase, you can click on the poster to take you to the Amazon page.


10
A suitably unnerving Victorian London is our setting for this excellent English -language debut from director Juan Carlos Medina. The violent horror-thriller takes a number of real-life characters and events and surrounds them in a fictional whodunit. Several Jack the Ripper-inspired murders have got England's capital buzzing with fear and gossip. They're so gruesome that word on the street is claiming that the mythical Limehouse Golem is to blame. But could the culprit be someone far more surprising?
 
Bill Nighy and Douglas Booth shine as Police Detective Kildare (fictional) and Vaudvillian superstar Dan Leno (real) but the real star of the show is Olivia Cook as an inspiring actress turned high-society wife. She appeared my Top 10 of 2015 with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and she's fast becoming one of the most interesting actors of her generation.

The visuals are as absorbing as they are grimy and the plot twists and turns are as unpredictable as they are entertaining. An excellent and underrated piece of cinema.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0779JJKJD/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B0779JJKJD&linkCode=as2&tag=thecollcham-21&linkId=2ee31052fab0272644440999bb02fc0e
9
I love a good movie about movies, but the best ones are about the worst this crazy, passionate artform can bestow. American Movie and Best Worst Movie are two documentaries that I find myself regularly drawn to, as is the stylish Ed Wood biopic by Tim Burton. The Disaster Artist falls in between the two tone-wise. It accounts the insane making of one of the worst movies of all time: The Room - a movie that makes the subjects of each of the three previously mentioned films look like competent filmmakers. It is based on the memoir by the film's co-star Greg Sestero and details the crazy shenanigans of the star, writer, director and producer - the incomparable Tommy Wiseau. It boggles the mind that this baffling character actually exists.

The Franco Brothers, James and Dave play Tommy and Greg respectively with James also directing. Their regular clique are also dotted around with Seth Rogen playing the 1st Assistant Director Sandy. It is without a doubt the best thing these frequent collaborators of freaks and geeks have done since, well, Freaks and Geeks.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01MYBIFPA/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B01MYBIFPA&linkCode=as2&tag=thecollcham-21&linkId=0465d238c2c1cc4e0c3d7e055e675cf5">Moonlight [Blu-ray] [2017]</a><img src="//ir-uk.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=thecollcham-21&l=am2&o=2&a=B01MYBIFPA  https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B076QKK9J3/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B076QKK9J3&linkCode=as2&tag=thecollcham-21&linkId=c7dd752cd8117b127240e7a1c59552b4">Call Me By Your Name [Blu-ray] [2017]</a><img src="//ir-uk.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=thecollcham-21&l=am2&o=2&a=B076QKK9J3
8
We have a thematic tie with number 8 on my list. Moonlight (which released in the UK far later than the US) and Call Me By Your Name both feature a coming-of-age story about gay teens and their struggles with what that means in their era and location. Both will also remind you of how affecting good cinema can be.

Putting Warren Beatty's Oscar debacle aside, Moonlight is one of the few times I felt the academy got it right (as good as it was, La La Land was ultimately a film with very little to say). It follows a young and sensitive boy in a rough area of Miami from the age of 9 to young adulthood. Not only does this man have to discover his place as a gay man in an overtly violent neighbourhood, he also has to navigate racism, gang culture and a drug-addicted mother. Now, you might think that this will be a depressing film about being the odd one out in an impenetrable sub-culture (can the gay and the ultra-masculine gangsta-rap cultures co-exist?) but it is anything but. In fact, I came out thinking it was just the opposite.

Call Me By Your Name doesn't offer the same cultural commentary, but it is just as moving. Set in the picturesque Italian countryside over one hazy summer in the 80s, a 17-year-old boy on the cusp of adulthood has a passionate relationship with an American student who is staying with him and his family. What follows is a surprisingly warm and heartfelt account of a first love that will resonate no matter what your sexuality. I don't think this will get as much Oscar glory as Moonlight, but I do believe it will get a large number of nominations. Adapted Screenplay is a lock surely.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B071W8XPKK/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B071W8XPKK&linkCode=as2&tag=thecollcham-21&linkId=a079580c1d2595ce078d6bc89fd666ca">My Life As A Courgette [Blu-ray]</a><img src="//ir-uk.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=thecollcham-21&l=am2&o=2&a=B071W8XPKK
7
Mainstream animation may have taken a critical if not financial hit this year, but if you look beyond the multiplex, there's a treasure trove of gold out there. Studio Ghibli's first French collaboration with The Red Turtle was sublime but it was this other Gallic tale of abused and abandoned children finding meaning at an orphanage that truly resonated. There's a very dark subject matter behind the cute and stylised stop-motion visuals, and one with little interest in flights of fancy. This somehow makes the tensest of moments both more palatable and affecting to the viewer. And at a brisk running time, it's well worth giving it a chance if you can find it.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B06XPK29P7/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B06XPK29P7&linkCode=as2&tag=thecollcham-21&linkId=b910fcb982639e13bc1a88ce8873e249">Free Fire [Blu-ray] [2017]</a><img src="//ir-uk.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=thecollcham-21&l=am2&o=2&a=B06XPK29P7
6
British director Ben Wheatley has been playing with audience expectations for years now. Whether it be twisting kitchen sink realism mixed with out-and-out graphic horror in Kill List, playing with our expectations for a dystopian future in High Rise or even testing our will for different distribution methods with A Field in England (which had a simultaneous cinema, DVD, streaming and terrestrial TV release). And that doesn't mention the bat-shit craziness that took place during Sightseers' running time.

Free Fire doesn't subvert cinematic conventions so much as what we expect from Wheatley himself. It is his most accessible film to date, being a single 90-minute shootout that's a throw-back to the grindhouse cinema of the 70s. Inventive gunplay is pretty much the whole movie, but it's the characters played by a number of recognisable faces that make this such a fun watch.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0787K144C/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B0787K144C&linkCode=as2&tag=thecollcham-21&linkId=90fb336f87babd3c6d63920cba22ad58
5
I find the bile that The Last Jedi is currently getting rather baffling. I have seen it twice now and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. Does it have flaws? Yes, as does every Star Wars movie, but like a good majority of them, the flaws don't ruin it. In fact, I have no problem with what most people seem to have taken issue with. I like the grumpy curmudgeon Luke has aged into. I understand his stance too. If I had gone through the original trilogy with my optimism intact, only to have a force vision of history repeating, I'd probably be in the exact same position with the exact same doubt over my life choices. Reading some comments from so-called fans, they seem to have missed the point of what this movie is trying to say - no-one's infallible, not even an ancient, magical religion (the force can still exist without the Jedi, you know).

All of the main characters had a decent arc - including Rose and Fin in their admittedly overlong side quest - and it set up some decent potential conflicts for Episode IX. I literally have no idea where they're going to take it and I like that. I like that it kept me guessing throughout too - nothing that I was expecting to happen happened and it was all the more gripping for it. If there's anything that put me off, it was the out of place comedy. It didn't sully the entire film for me and it wasn't as bothersome on second viewing but I don't think we needed space-age steam irons in the Star Wars universe.

Also, like most things Disney owns this!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B06XS2NB14/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B06XS2NB14&linkCode=as2&tag=thecollcham-21&linkId=463d9ac6bb35981409e80f6967db9bc0
4
It's been a great year for horror. The Annabelle sequel was a way better film than the god-awful original and seeing It on the big screen is one hell of an experience, and not because I saw it in back-breaking 4D. Jordan Peele's Get Out is probably my favourite horror of the year and it actually has something profound to say. In a time where the KKK and White Supremacists are again holding hate-filled rallies, it could even be considered prescient.

Chris, an African-American college student, has been invited to a dinner party at his white girlfriend's parents. Located in the middle of the rural south, there's already an unease for Chris but are the strange characters he's surrounded by up to something nefarious or is it all in his head? To say any more would give away the wonderfully twisted movie that is sure to become a classic for any genre fan. I look forward to what Mr. Peele does next.


https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B077Y5MJL4/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thecollcham-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B077Y5MJL4&linkId=a2b07bbabedc8e454267101fc34eabb1
3
Brigsby Bear went under the radar for so many cinemagoers this year, even with the backing of SNL's in-house songsters The Lonely Island. In many ways, it's a mish-mash of other recent favourites of mine - most notably Room and Frank (check them both out) - but Brigsby Bear comes together to be a movie totally of its own. It tells the story of a man named James who was kidnapped as a baby and kept in a biodome by a kooky couple who once made kids toys for a living. The father of this fake family played brilliantly by Mark Hamil used his skills as toymaker to create a TV show starring Brigsby Bear for an audience of one person - James.

When James is finally found as a young man and reunited with his real family, he takes the transition surprisingly well, except for his fanboy fascination with a TV show that doesn't actually exist. In fact, he seems to mourn the fact that Brigsby will have no ending than the fact that his whole life was a lie. Being a lighthearted movie overall, James takes it upon himself to become a filmmaker and finish the show himself and finds closure by doing so.

Brigsby Bear shows beautifully why movies can have such an impact on people. It portrays fanboyism not as something toxic and self-entitled (like it can often be in some forums) but as something that can instil impassioned creativity, form life-long friends and give meaning to one's existence. It can give a place to even the weirdest of oddballs and that is something to be championed. Remember, these positive types of people are far more numerous than the negative types, even if they can be often drowned out in the Youtube comments sections.


https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B073FF3VNT/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thecollcham-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B073FF3VNT&linkId=02c14751902838e74fbce4b25875d781
2
With the shocking revelations surrounding Kevin Spacey in recent months, I was hesitant to revisit one of my more enjoyable cinema experiences this year when Baby Driver arrived on Blu-Ray. I was afraid his deplorable personal life would colour his on-screen characters for me, especially as the scandal was so recent. Perhaps because his character here was already an asshole, or the rest of the movie was of such a high quality, it didn't affect the viewing at all.

Edgar Wright's movie is brilliant as always, and you should all go and see Baby Driver, but this rather unique dilemma got me thinking whether an individual's actions in their personal should negatively affect their artistic merits. Kevin Spacey is without a doubt a damn good actor. He should also be damned for his actions. But should a movie or TV show suffer the same retribution? It takes more than just one actor to bring something to the screen, so what of the rest of the cast and crew many of which may be relying on residuals? Should the many months or years they spent on this be all for nought because of Kevin bloody Spacey?

My answer: keep the art separate from the scandal and you won't miss out on some quality cinema. And find solace in the fact that Kevin got his comeuppance.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0765YMKKZ/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thecollcham-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B0765YMKKZ&linkId=aebbdf7deda7bff61288cac98271b18f
1
I knew this would top my list as soon as I stepped out of the opening-day screening. Blade Runner is perhaps my number-one movie of all time (being a cineaste, I may say that about many films but with this one I probably mean it). It is the first film I remember having vivid memories of as a very young boy. The rain-drenched neon imagery blared out of the TV and into my brain as I was falling asleep on my parent's lap because I refused to go to bed. It is the movie I have in the most formats - multiple VHS, DVD and a collector's edition Blu-Ray. I have the script, the coffee-table companion book, the video-game. I wrote a paper on it while studying film at University. Perhaps it is the movie that got me seriously interested in film. I would have never expected a sequel 35 years after it's initial release. Not in my wildest imaginations could I thought a sequel would be this good.

Ryan Gosling's K is the new protagonist and just like Harrison Ford's Deckard, he plays it with a detached subtlety that can be both confusing and alienating if you are unfamiliar of the Blade Runner universe. Right from the off we are told that K is a replicant. He knows it too. He is a newer model than the easily corrupted Nexus 6 and has been given a job as a replicant-hunting Blade Runner by the LAPD. I won't spoil the plot more than that, but I will say that it perfectly continues the story of the original with rhymes of existential thoughts echoes and built upon. It is that rare beast in cinema: an intelligent blockbuster. And like the original, one can't be surprised that the masses didn't flock to see it.


HONORABLE MENTIONS

A hyper-cool actioner based on a comic book. Starring Charlize Theron, there's more style than substance but the action scenes are some of the best of the year (I somehow missed John Wick 2.

Beauty & the Beast / Paddington 2 / A Monster Calls
While kids animation seemed to stagnate this year, live-action family films flourished. Disney's update of Beauty and the Beast has some pacing problems but by adding additional scenes - some from the play, some created for this film - it does enough to warrant existence alongside the animation. Paddington 2 can proudly exclaim itself to be a worthy sequel that might just be better than the already exceptional first. 

On a darker note, A Monster Calls is a beautiful and emotional fantasy about a talking tree that comes to a boy dealing with the imminent death of his terminally ill mother. You'll need at least two boxes of tissues for this one.

Also, another Disney owned movie!

The Beguiled
Sofia Coppola's remake of Clint Eastwood drama based on a Thomas Cullinan book. Being helmed by a woman, the text takes on a distinctly feminine voice which makes the events uncomfortably understandable. Set in the south during the civil war, an all-girl boarding school nurses a wounded soldier back to health, only to find that the Yankee is the enemy.

Colossal
A low-key sci-fi where Anne Hathaway's out-of-work party girl discovers she has a psychic connection to a Godzilla-like creature destroying Seoul. A quirky little film that fits right in my wheelhouse.

Dunkirk
I think I may have been the only person that was slightly disappointed by this Christopher Nolen directed war movie. I felt how it presented each story by crosscutting over different timeframes (3 weeks / 3 days / 3 hours) was a little clumsy. Instead of being a thematic plot device, this sometimes confusing choice made it play like a series of (incredibly well-executed) vignettes placed together with tenuous reasoning. They each seemed separate from each other. For the most part, the characters appeared to have little depth or personality with not much motivation beyond reacting to what is happening to them at any given time. Why are we following that specific soldier of the beach when there are thousands of others? What about his character gives him the gumption to try and fail to escape the beach several times? Why do we need to follow Tom Hardy's pilot at all when most of his screen time is spent not doing much at all? Why is it only Mark Rylance's sections that offer any emotional resonance within the confines of the film? Does any of this matter?

The film is nevertheless impeccable from a technical standpoint. I was still engaged throughout most of the movie not because I connected with the characters, but because I connected with the situation they were in. I don't think this makes Dunkirk anything less than a great movie, but I do believe it's far more flawed than many movie goers would have you believe.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 / Thor: Ragnarok / Spider-Man: Homecoming
Disney's Marvel continued their box-office dominance with a trio of movies that skew toward the more comedic side. Guardians 2 wasn't as much of a rip-roaring adventure as the first, but it did allow for more character development. Thor 3 is surprisingly funnier than any out-and-out comedy I've seen this year and funnier than the Guardians which had established itself as the 'quirky comedic one' of the MCU. Sony gave in to their own stubborn hubris and allowed themselves to save their Spider-Man licence by partnering with Disney for the third - and best - attempt at the character. With the John Hughes style teenage comedy, it has carved out its own niche in the crowded genre.

Also, Disney owns these!

Ingrid Goes West
A biting and intelligent satire on modern culture dominated by social media. When a famous lifestyle Instagrammer accepts Ingrid's friend request, things get a little stalkery. Buy this dark comedy isn't there to point and laugh at the crazy person. Nor is it to cast judgement upon the fake lives of the social media elite. There isn't really an indictment of the modern world at all - it's just there. This is more about loneliness, social awkwardness and the struggles of mental illness. But as a comedy.

It
There's a new multiples cinema near where I live that hosts a 4DX screen. You know, the gimmick where the seats move, air puffs in your face and water drips down on you like a theme park attraction. That's where I saw It and I think it's probably the best type of film to see on such a screen. Horrors are interactive experiences, more so than any other genre. Jump scares (which are actually well done here) are accentuated with a jolt, an almost imperceptible tilt makes Dolly Zooms even more disorientating. It made an already top-notch horror more entertaining. That being said, I doubt I'll see many more movies there.

 Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Another movie with a backlash that I don't entirely get. Sure it's not as good as the first film but I'll in no way say it's a disappointment. It wears its comic book origins firmly on its sleeve, complete with any problems that may have. The villain lacks depth but still has a visual repertoire that's a substitute for character. You can say that with the Whiskey-loving Statesmen too. It's features of several worst-ofs by critics but I like it just fine.

Also, Disney now owns this!

Logan
Now that Disney owns all of Fox's intellectual properties, will the studio's successful stab towards adult-orientated comic-book movies continue? Deadpool and Logan both prove that an R-rated superhero film can succeed whether as an entertainingly crude comedy or a balls-to-the-wall action fest. That being said, the rating and target audience is the reason why Logan succeeds. It's the characterisation, the story and the surprising roads a well-loved character goes down. One of the best in a crowded genre and the best superhero film of the year.

Disney now owns this!

Loving / Manchester By the Sea / La La Land
Us Brits don't tend to get the Oscar-baiters until the New Year, and it's a gamble whether they'll arrive in time for the Oscar ceremony itself. These three films got a lot of deserved love back in February so I'm giving them an honourable mention here.

Loving tells the tale of an interracial couple fighting for their right to remain married in the deep American South of the Jim Crow era. Manchester by the Sea is one of the most devastating portraits of grief put on film, with its best actor Oscar for Casey Affleck absolutely deserved. La La Land is advertised as a throw-back to the classic Hollywood musical of the 1950s but it instead owes more to the musicals of the French New Wave - Jacques Demy's seaside trilogy (Umbrellas of Cherbourg) in particular.

mother! / The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Two on-the-nose metaphorical allegories were released this year and I liked both for different reasons. mother! (lower-case, exclamation mark) suffered from a misleading marketing campaign but I found the re-telling of the old testament rather good. It's not as deep as it thinks it is, but I liked the confused puzzle of it all.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is based on the Greek Myth of Agamemnon and Artemis. Agamemnon accidentally kills a sacred deer belonging to the Goddess of Wild Animals. As penance, she tasks the king to sacrifice his daughter. This kinda happens in the movie but in much more weird and allegorical way. Fitting for the director of Dogtooth and The Lobster. It's the better movie of the two, but mother! is more entertaining.

The Red Turtle
A beautiful, wordless animated movie that follows a survivor of a shipwreck alone on a desert island. Due to the titular sea creature, he is unable to leave by self-made raft but there's more to the reptile than meets the eye.

Also, Disney distributed this!

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Sadly, this Luc Besson directed sci-fi is considered a box-office bomb. I found it to be one of the most visually arresting summer blockbusters in recent memory. There's a lot going on in the film, but it's not incompetently told like, say, the Pirates sequels. If you like The Fifth Element, which I very much do, you're sure to like this.

War of the Planet of the Apes
A fitting closure to the modern Apes trilogy that still surprises me how intelligently written and executed they are. They are some of the best blockbusters out there but their dour tone can put some off. It's the weakest of the three, but nevertheless a great movie.

Also, Disney now owns this!

Wonder Woman
This put my faith back into the DCU. It does right what all of the other movies fo wrong. It has a coherent story. A character arch that's not based on assumptions or plot conveniences (except one super-quick boat ride). It was so good, it even made me excited for Justice League.



WORST 5 MOVIES OF 2017

5
ALIEN COVENANT

I can imagine the bigwigs at 20th Century Fox thinking "we shoulda just remade Alien" after the response to the under-appreciated Prometheus. Evidently, Ridley Scott agreed or at least conceded because that's what the first half of covenant was: a retread of Alien. It sits jarringly with the second half which tries to be as pop-philosophical as its 2012 predecessor but just comes off a stupid. People are stupid. Prometheans are stupid. Aliens are stupid. Even the android is bat-shit in a so-bad-it's-funny way. That's not to say there isn't any merit. It looks pretty and some of the set ups are good. If I had ventured into seeing more movies, it would've been bumped off this list but as of now, it's one of the most disappointing films of 2017.

Also, Disney now owns this!


4
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN:
DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

Did you know a new Pirates movie came out this year? I completely forgot about it until I gathered all of the movies I'd seen this year. I can't tell you anything about it other than the de-aged Johnny Depp looked a bit weird and that I felt it passed the time just fine when I saw it. At least the plot is more focused than any of the previous sequels, but what's that if it doesn't stick with you.

Disney also had a hand in this, along with almost a third of the movies mentioned on this page!

3
THE MUMMY

This studio rush to carve their own cinematic universe has to stop. Outside of Marvel, not one of the attempts had been any good. The Mummy has the same major issue with all of the other wannabes in that it forgets to be a movie in its own right. Best avoided.

2
JUSTICE LEAGUE

After Wonder Woman was actually good, I had thought Warner Bros. had learnt from their mistakes. Unfortunately, we got Justice League - a mess of a movie that suffers from the same issues that Batman vs Superman did before it. It tries too hard, tries too much, yet doesn't know what it wants. There were too many production problems behind the scenes which lead to a rushed product and it shows.

1
THE EMOJI MOVIE

Yes, I saw it. No, I don't want to talk about it :( #imintherapy


Coming soon: my best / worst games of the year.


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