Updated: Apr 28
Our intrepid reviewer, website creator and overall overlord of chief-executive level of tremendousness runs down his own personal top 10 list of 2017 films
Ok, after the heated debates of the Kapeesh? Top 10 podcasts, I thought it was about time I communicated my own personal Top 10. This would ideally have been written up around late December or mid January but better late than never, right?
And, I will start by pointing out I still have some glaringly obvious films which I never got round to seeing such as Detroit, Cars 3, Raw, Okja, Patriots Day and the Emoji Movie (maybe not so big a deal with that one). And many more.
Anyways, back to my Top 10. So these were films that I connected to most than any films throughout the year, and they are more in line with my tastes than some other films which I can agree are amazingly well told stories (Manchester by the Sea, I'm looking at you).
So, I will start with the three Honourable Mentions which were cut short of the final top 10 but deserve recognition anyway.
The Greatest Showman – Having just seen this very recently it is fresh in the mind and has cheekily pipped Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle from the last Honourable Mention slot (although, I suppose, technically I have found a way to get it mentioned right here). The praise it has received from many people I know was justified and the staying power it has shown in cinemas is testament to how popular this film has become. The catchy tunes, the likeable performances, the sets, the costumes, the touching story and its message of acceptance all collided into one original, well produced musical which I would happily watch again. A feat in itself as I would not consider myself the greatest musical fan but this may have kindled an interest in that particular genre.
John Wick: Chapter 2 – The sequel to the amazing original gun-fu assassin/revenge-for-killing-Keanu’s-dog film is just as well choreographed, cinematically composed and satisfyingly violent as the first and in this one the mysterious world of John Wick is explored and given more depth. Darkly funny and well paced, it was only the slightly over-the-top end reveal which soured me enough to have it misfire out the top 10.
Free Fire – This is one of those films where you can summarise the plot in a few words as I will now demonstrate; an arms deal turns to a gun fight between two factions in a warehouse. That’s it. Sure, there isn’t much meat on this one but its simplicity mostly works. The dialogue between the characters in the beginning is hilarious and full of great character actors throwing acidic banter at each other before the bullets fly (particularly Charlto Copley, Armie Hammer, and Cillian Murphy) and the entire film was a fun, undemanding watch.
Now for the Top 10
10. Paddington 2
Director: Paul King Writer: Simon Farnaby Main Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, and Hugh Grant
Sequels are now usually considered a success if they simply match up to a really successful original and it is unusual for a film to eclipse its predecessor completely. Paddington 2 is one of the latter examples as it is a film which built on the story, tone, and amazing cast of the original and created an even more likable piece of entertainment. From its amazing visual touches (the dream sequence where Paddington and Aunt Lucy explore a section of London inside a realised pop-up book is breathtaking), its great use of the new characters (such as Brendan Gleeson’s Nuckles and Hugh Grant’s flamboyant, charismatic villain Phoenix Buchanan) and it’s equally positive message of inclusion and acceptance of all cultures was warmly welcomed in a year where society has increasingly become more politically divisive and intolerant.
It’s adorable and will leave you with a smile on your face, as it did for me.
9. Baby Driver
Director/Writer – Edgar Wright Cast - Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Bernthal.
The main hook of this original crime drama film is that the entire film was created around the soundtrack. That is a pretty mind-blowing thought when you have to factor in pacing, meaningful dialogue and suspense. But Wright’s reported Spotify playlists of 30,000 songs were meticulously whittled down to the core soundtrack chosen for the film - thank God he seems to have a varied and decent taste in music or this could have been a hideously off-beat jazz/ death metal fusion which might not have worked as well.
Likable lead Elgort’s Baby is an unusually introverted main character but contrasts with the unhinged criminals in Spacey’s crew and the Mike Myer’s masks heist gag was particularly memorable in a film loaded with great moments.
Director/ Writer – Dee Rees Writer – Virgil Williams Main Cast - Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, and Mary J. Blige.
This Netflix original film is a captivating, well acted, occasionally tough watch. Race issues have become more prevalent in Hollywood films over the last few years and the majority of them have shown different forms of discrimination throughout the last 100 years. Mudbound is a period drama set during and after the Second World War and tells the story of two veterans returning to Mississippi from the war and how they are treated differently because of their skin colour. Based on the book, the characters are equally well written and developed over the film’s plot; Mulligan’s character is relatively passive towards the plight of the black family, whereas the elderly grandfather played by Jonathon Banks is absolutely and unremorsefully villainous towards them and some third act scenes make very uncomfortable viewing. However, this is a great sensitive and well executed piece of film-making.
Director/Writer – Martin Scorsese Writer – Jay Cocks (based on novel by Shusaku Endo) Main Cast - Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano and Ciarán Hinds
Silence is the third of Martin Scorsese’s religious themed focused films and has been a project that he first tried to make back in the early ‘90s. It is a brutal, slow-paced film which is certainly not for everyone however if you can embrace the plodding and stillness, this is a remarkably powerful and visually impressive film which tackles the very nature of faith and how far people are willing to go to demonstrate it. The film is lengthy, challenging and there are scenes which will make you wince but it certainly left an impression and the cinematography is astounding at points; a sequence involving a Japanese patrol boat searching for the Portuguese Jesuit priests as it silently breaks through a misty riverbank was a particular favourite of mine.
Director/Writer – Bryan Fogel Writer – Mark Monroe
This Netflix documentary began with a simple goal in mind as it examined the ways in which its director can use doping to gain an advantage in an amateur cycling event however as the film progressed the story shifted to reveal one of its contributors was responsible for the Russian state-funded doping scandal which became an international story and cast a shadow over the sport in general. Watching this, I didn’t realise how involved this story was and was astonished as Bryan Fogel captured the moments of a whirlwind international scandal as it was happening and from the viewpoint of one of its central figures. It was an engrossing watch and highly recommended for anyone with a remote interest in how our sports can be influenced by the geo political forces behind the scenes.
Director – Garth Davis Writer – Luke Davies Main Cast - Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Rooney Mara, David Wenham and Nicole Kidman
Based on the non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley this is a touching cinematic adaptation of Saroo’s remarkable story. As a young boy who grew up in Australia after losing his family in India he then later as a grown adult uses technology to try and find his way home to his family. The film deals with his relationship with his adopted family and the particularly difficult one with his troubled adopted step brother before shifting to his quest to return home. I was particularly moved by the emotion conveyed when Saroo announces to his adopted family that he will be leaving them to search for his real family and it was performed well by all with standouts from Dev Patel in the central role and Nicole Kidman as his adopted mother. It may have a relatively predictable third act and resolution however when it comes, it is still a powerful sequence.
4. The Founder
Director – John Lee Hancock Writer - Robert Siegel Main Cast – Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, Nick Offerman, John Caroll Lynch
It may share some unpleasant parallels with a certain current real-life American President in that this film is essentially about an egotistical uber capitalist bullying his way into power at the expense of others however it is undeniably a mesmerising performance from Michael Keaton. As Ray Kroc he is a loathsome, mercilessly unlikable anti-hero yet throughout you can’t help but feel a mixture of sympathy and frustration towards the McDonald brothers as Ray muscles his way into their small, ‘fast food’ family business and essentially turns it into the mega multinational franchise we know today. I will admit I love a good Keaton performance but this film also gave me insight into a company that I have frequented on many occasions but never considered the origins. A fantastic biopic that will leave you with a mixture of emotions but a hunger for a McDonald’s burger may not be one of them.
3. Spiderman: Homecoming
Director/ Writer – Jon Watts Writers - Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers Main Cast - Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, and Robert Downey Jr.
The cards were stacked against this one. This is the second reboot of the Spiderman film franchise in as little as five years and it is also the fourth film starring the character as the lead within the last ten years. And those last three films were not overly loved either. So, I can see why there were some groans at the announcement of this one; some ‘Spidey-fatigue’ definitely existed. However, despite all that I think this film has proven that with the right vision of the character, great screenplay, a change in tone and perfect casting then any tired film franchise deserves another chance.
Having Sony agree to allow the Marvel team to collaborate and rewrite the character to exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has worked wonders for both companies as this version really nailed the humour and blended the character perfectly well into the MCU. Having villain Vulture played by Michael Keaton was also a great move as well as the younger take on Spiderman, played as a high-school age Tom Holland. I found this film to be genuinely funny and a great cinematic thrill-ride from the beginning.
2. Get Out
Director/writer – Jordan Peele Main Cast – Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams. Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, and Catherine Keener
This was a film I knew nothing about going in and it seems that’s what first-time director Jordan Peele intended. The vague marketing campaign for this really gave nothing away but to expect something unusual. The ‘young couple visiting the girl’s rich family for a weekend’ sounds like it could be the main premise of any number of American comedy films however the added element of the way in which race is treated and the film’s off-beat, unsettling tone throughout made this a genuinely amazing immersive experience. The balancing act of horror and comedy is not easy but Peele seems to have a true knack for it and with the help of an amazing cast (Kaluuya is tremendous and was rightly Oscar nominated) he has created one of the most interesting, thought-provoking and original films that I have watched in a long time.
Director/writer – James Mangold Writers - Michael Green and Scott Frank (based on ‘Old Man Logan’ by Frank Miller and Steve McNiven) Main Cast - Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, and Dafne Keen
Being the (sort-of) third of the so-far middling X-Men Wolverine stand-alone films didn’t give this movie a great starting point. And being the next release in the X-Men universe after the critically slaughtered X-Men: Apocalypse, it was easy to write off ‘another superhero film' by 20th Century Fox studios.
However, this was different. Having witnessed the success of Deadpool, the other stand-alone spin-off in the studio’s X-Men universe, Mangold pitched the idea of raising the rating for Wolverine’s final outing to an 18. It was also to be a different feeling film, more focused and with a heavy reliance on practical effects than CGI and more similar in tone to a western than a pixel-manipulated superhero film. That pitch was enough to bring back Jackman and Stewart for one final send-off and the result would become one of the most visceral, astonishingly violent, and shockingly emotional goodbyes for this iteration of the characters that have been on our screens since 2000.
Online, the film is said to be 'the superhero film for people who are sick and tired of superhero films' and I can see why that has stuck. This is back-to-basics film-making with no care if the plot even connects to the previous Wolverine films, never mind the X-Men films in general (Mangold has said he has no interest in it being seen as part of the trilogy but if people prefer that interpretation it can still be viewed that way).
Beaten only by Deadpool as a ground-breaking superhero film to have excessive swearing and ludicrous violence (you will likely lose count of how many times Wolverine thrusts his arm blades into the eyes of unfortunate henchman) but this film remarkably also had an emotional core to it that Deadpool lacked. The theme of aging and caring for your elderly relatives is explored (Professor X is now severely ill, handicapped and heavily dependent on the also-aged, weathered Wolverine) and there is even a sequence that involves a character helping him to the bathroom, which is not the usual fertile ground for a superhero film. In fact one of the most memorable scenes is a result of the plot involving Professor X’s degenerative condition (let’s put it this way, if he doesn’t take his pills it all goes horribly bad for anyone within a mile radius). And, of course, there is a scene which explores what happens and it is one of the most staggeringly wince-inducing sequences that I have seen this year.
Mangold’s film is a success on many fronts. He righted the wrongs of the previous Wolverine films. He showed that a clear focused vision will always trump over expensive CGI. He gave an amazing farewell to both Jackman’s Wolverine and Stewart’s Professor X. But most importantly, he made a damn great film.
So, that's my Top 10. If you haven't seen any of those films I highly recommend all of them. What are yours?