Late again with this one – here are the films I saw in 2017, ordered by no logic other than how I want to rank them. Best first.
A Street Cat Named Bob – Very low budget, as demonstrated by the rather random continuity, and it takes half an hour or so to build some steam, but once it does it’s just lovely. A feelgood true story like only the British can do.
Lego Batman – Just brilliant. So silly, so funny.
A Monster Calls – Liam Neeson as a tree. Really rather wonderful, not for kids and, like the woman behind in the cinema observed, “not at all like the BFG.”
The Edge of Seventeen – Hailee Steinfeld stars as the girl on “the edge of seventeen”, going through the usual stuff. Boosted by an intelligent script and a wonderfully written sardonic teacher role that Woody Harrelson brings to life so well.
Paddington 2 – Just as adorable as the first, with just about all the UK Equity Card holders in it. Except Colin Firth.
Concussion – This is the film in which Will Smith discovers that American Football causes mental issues in later life through repeated concussions, and the NFL refuses to admit it (like tobacco companies lying about cigarettes making you dead). It has a LOT of problems, from the silly bald wigs that are fooling nobody, through the bizarre casting of Luke Wilson as the NFL head honcho, to details like Will Smith saying he’s “saved all his money” whilst driving the same honking great Mercedes limo that his boss does. But I was won over by Will Smith’s lead character Dr Omalu, who was delightful.
T2 Trainspotting – 20 years on from the excellent original, all the same cast and director conspire to make a satisfying follow-up. It probably won’t work for you if you haven’t seen the first one though.
Moana – A girl with magical watery powers tries to explore the sea around her native Hawaiian island. I can’t put my finger on why I liked this so much but it was great.
Kubo and the Two Strings – Nearly won the Best Animated Picture Oscar, beautiful and fun, for all the family.
War for the Planet of the Apes – Third in the Apes series, just as intelligent as the second one, with incredible monkey-CGI but a rather contrived and clumsy ending.
Victoria and Abdul – Delightful very British tale of Queen Victoria’s Indian right-hand man. Not the first time Judi Dench’s Queen Victoria has had a Mr Brown.
Blade Runner 2049 – A worthy sequel with Ryan Gosling doing his broody thing very well. Very long but doesn’t feel it. Great.
War on Everyone – Directed by the guy who did The Guard and Calvary (two brilliant films), this one feels more like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang … it’s is pretty fun but nowhere near as good as the aforementioned masterpieces. Maverick corrupt cop hooey made good by zippy writing.
Lion – Really powerful but half an hour too long, Dev Patel stars (but weirdly gets Best *Supporting* BAFTA) as the Indian kid who falls asleep on a train and loses his family. Too heavily loaded towards the front of the story for my liking, but still really good.
Manchester By The Sea – Casey Affleck picks up a well deserved Best Actor Oscar in this slow character study. Quite sombre but somehow watchable at the same time.
Bridget Jones’s Baby – Exactly as you’d expect, and largely as good as the predecessors. I liked it.
David Brent: Life on the Road – Ricky Gervais resurrects his character from The Office and surprisingly we don’t really notice that none of the original cast are there. Should be rubbish but it’s actually rather fun.
Toni Erdmann – Germany “comedy” about a fifty-odd bloke who likes mucking about, much to the chagrin of his professional daughter. More of a black drama with the odd funny bit, it is nonetheless unforgettable. Not to everybody’s tastes.
Men and Chicken – Desperately weird Danish-with-subtitles character piece, it’s dark and quite funny and I enjoyed it, but you’ll need a quirky side or it’ll leave you flummoxed.
La La Land – With critics raving and some friends panning it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t usually get musicals, when they start singing it bursts the bubble of cinematic magic – but I ended up rather liking this one despite everything.
Baywatch – Gentle mickey take of the inexplicably popular 1990s TV Hasseldross, which is pretty funny but manages to be both ironically sexist and *actually* sexist at the same time. Nobody bothered to write any jokes for any of the female characters. At all. And at times they *really* needed some.
Murder on the Orient Express – Dodgy CGI reminiscent of the Polar Express and a daft Agatha Christie plot are all upstaged by Kenneth Branagh’s moustache. Watchable tosh.
Goodbye Christopher Robin – Not quite sure why I wasn’t grabbed by this one. It’s got Domhnall Gleeson, who I really like, and the kid playing Christopher Robin was brilliant. But somehow I wasn’t really bothered.
Atomic Blonde – Charize Theron and James McAvoy light up the screen in this noir Berlin Wall spy thriller. The plot’s silly but the set pieces are worth the ticket price alone, with one astonishing single shot that covers about twenty minutes of intense fighting in a stairwell and then a car chase. That’s CGI I wholeheartedly approve of – completely transparent, so the only way you know it’s CGI is because it’s not physically possible to film such a sequence in the traditional way. Top stuff.
Snatched – Amy Schumer comedy with Goldie Hawn getting kidnapped on holiday in Ecuador, worth it for the “Welcome” joke alone. I won’t spoil it.
The Snowman – Fairly ordinary serial killer whodunnit, lifted by weirdness and the wonder that is Michael Fassbender. Strange for many reasons – firstly because it’s in Norway and people have Norwegian names, yet all the signage is in English and everyone speaks with an English accent. Even American JK Simmons. Secondly for the stunningly awful dubbing of Val Kilmer’s voice that doesn’t even match his mouth movements. Utterly bizarre.
Churchill – Brian Cox (not the science one) as Winston trying to arrange D-Day. No guns, no death, it’s all talk – pretty unusual for a war film. Unused to seeing Churchill on screen, I was reminded more than once of Hitchcock and Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that rather than illuminating us with hitherto unknown details, we were being hoodwinked with propaganda and dramatic licence. Oh, and they remembered George VI had a stutter (James Purefoy barely registered it in his performance), but it seems they completely forgot Churchill had one too. Hey ho.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates – Lightweight American Pie-style comedy with Zac Efron, fine for an evening in with a pizza and beer.
Keeping up with the Joneses – Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher are the innocent couple living next door to suspected super-spies John Hamm (Mad Men) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman). More fun than it sounds.
Alien Covenant – Perfectly competent Alien-by-the-numbers, with a clumsily obvious story and beautiful visuals, lifted by Michael Fassbender, who’s just brilliant. Hard to understand why they felt the need to go all the way to Doubtful Sound when most of it is CGI anyway. But I guess recognising it on the trailer made me want to see it, so there’s your answer. Maybe they didn’t go after all, and just made it look like they did. Maybe nobody cares.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – I hated the first one, but everybody else loved it so I was keen to go in with an open mind this time. As such I did find the funny bits much funnier, but really the stupid action shit is so tiresome and the plot is appalling. You can see why it’s so popular.
Live By Night – Surprisingly not quite shit 1920s gangster pic with Ben Affleck starring and directing.
Fences – Denzel Washington directs and stars, and just misses out on the Best Actor Oscar, but it’s Viola Davis who steals the show. It feels like a play – lots of dialogue and few scene changes – and it’s pretty long, but it’s quality character-based stuff.
Going By … something or other – It’s only been 12 hours and I can’t even remember the name of it, by next month I will have forgotten it even existed. <Looking it up> Oh yes, “Going In Style”. Terrible name. Featherweight fluff featuring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin robbing a bank, supported by Ann-Margaret and Matt Dillon, directed by Zach Braff (the guy from Scrubs). With that cast it’s always going to be watchable and fun, and it is. But it has less substance than a prawn cracker filled with helium.
Kong: Skull Island – Predator for the 2010s. Joyfully shit and as a result surprisingly enjoyable despite being so formulaic you could almost see the strings.
The Death of Stalin – Hugely disappointed by this Armando Iannucci “comedy”, in which a few lines of dialogue were mildly amusing but the rest were just the stellar cast talking over each other. I fell asleep. And considering it has Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, Jeffery Tambor, Andrea Riseborough, Paul Whitehouse and Jason Isaacs, that’s quite a feat.
Dunkirk – Clearly a *good* film, with the enemy pitched as a faceless force (we never see any German people) and Harry Styles from One Direction making a solid acting debut alongside Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Christopher Nolan’s immersive and down-to-earth direction. But at the end of the day it’s just people being hideous to each other for two hours, reminding us that we’re just chimps with bigger sticks. So I won’t be seeing it again, thankyouverymuch. Thoroughly depressing because it’s so real.
I, Daniel Blake – I really wanted to like this highly regarded Ken Loach film about a job-seeking man, but I found my attention drifting, maybe as a self-defence against the bleak hopelessness of the characters’ situations. Fucking depressing. Stay away unless you want your day ruined.
The Neon Demon – Scores points by being a bit different, loses them all for being pretentious bullshit. Nicolas Winding Refn, which is apparently a name, directs, writes, and presumably is responsible for the big pauses between lines of dialogue that fail to add profundity like he clearly thinks it does. I think it’s supposed to be a biting satire of the fashion industry, but it’s just rather shiny and dull, both at the same time. Which is quite an achievement, when you think about it.
Assassin’s Creed – Films of video games are always shite. But for a change I’ve actually spent some quality time playing this particular game, and I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself into the look and feel of the game, up there on the screen with Michael Fassbender. Pity it has a completely incoherent plot that makes no sense, but at least the crappy climax wasn’t very long.
Wonder Woman – They had a great opportunity to take a different direction with this superhero. They didn’t. It’s just like all the other stupid action shit, but set against a backdrop of World War II so even more depressing. As always, it’s all about who can hit each other the hardest. Zack Snyder wrote the story, which explains why it’s such bum-chowder. Utterly god-awful.
Silence – I really must stop watching films on the basis of the director. I was duped into watching Pacific Rim because it had Guillermo del Toro attached (who did Pan’s Labyrinth). I liked Ben Wheatley’s back catalogue so I foolishly endured High-Rise. And now Martin Scorsese’s name has stolen 160 very long minutes of my life watching Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield trying to convert Japanese feudal folk to Christianity. This was the first film I saw in 2017 and I REALLY hope it’s the worst. (Update: it was)