2017 : A Year in Review

My blog has taken a back seat this year and for personal circumstances i’ve missed a lot of important reviews over 2017. From 2018 onwards the reviews will return as scheduled but here is an overview of the films I saw this year. This will be followed by my end of year list in the next few days.

 

Star Wars : The Last Jedi (dir. Rian Johnson)

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The reboot for this whole new Star Wars universe has underwhelmed me so far and The Last Jedi doesn’t change my view on that as it becomes my least favourite instalment of the saga. I had my problems with The Force Awakens and really enjoyed Rogue One but this film suspends my belief in what Disney is doing with the iconic franchise. The film is beautifully shot and you can tell Rian Johnson is amazing behind the camera but certain flaws in its story ruined the film for me. I found the plot to be weak and the fact that we are again stuck in a rescue situation trying to get from point A-B proves the lack of risks taken with the script. When the script takes risks it takes the wrong risks and ruins the development of certain important characters such as Luke. I expected something bigger and I expected better battles, but what we were left with were straight from an above average popcorn film. However, it’s just nice to get an expanded look at the Star Wars universe and any film in this world deserves to be watched.

Final Verdict – 7.0


Coco

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Pixar have disappointed me with their last few releases and in this past decade I’ve only enjoyed watching Toy Story 3 and Finding Dory. However, they return with another original concept for their studio and hit all the right notes. Coco introduces the Mexican tradition of The Day of the Dead and also has its usual moral family themes. However, they manage to seamlessly mix the theme of death for child audiences and create a beautiful film. Typically the animation is breathtaking and for a film based around music it does provide a score and range of original songs up there to rival Disney as Pixar never really focus themselves on the musical element of their movies. ‘Remember Me’ and ‘Un Poco Loco’ are stand out songs that should be around during awards season when they pick the best original song. There is a very ambitious world created here by Pixar and although the film does some world building there is still so much of this universe yet to explore which I wish the film had done. However, the film plays it simple and goes from a simple point A to point B and this rids the film of any major flaws but at the same time closes it off from any innovation. I would have preferred a larger universe that explored more themes but Pixar simplified the formula and managed to create a neat film with very little holes. I’ve seen a lot of comparisons between Coco and The  Book of Life but the fact is Pixar created a cleaner film with their signature touch. This signature touch has been missing of late but these moralistic themes in their films is what drives them to succeed. Certain themes here such as the analogy of immigration through the custom checkpoints to the afterlife are there but never really expanded on. What the film does achieve is to convey a message to children about death and the afterlife and entertain adults at the same time. Coco is a melancholic tale told through Pixar’s lens and portrayed with a refreshing yet happy tale of loss and discovery.

Final Verdict – 8.0


Kong : Skull Island (dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts)

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Legendary’s MonsterVerse is getting along to a rocky start after Gareth Edward’s Godzilla (which i personally enjoyed)  was panned by critics and fans. Now here we have the next instalment with Kong: Skull Island, the lead up film to the Godzilla vs King Kong movie. Jordan Vogt-Roberts visually directs this story with ease and breathes some fresh style into Kong as Edwards did with Godzilla. However, it falls to problems that plagued Godzilla also; a weak screenplay. Godzilla played itself too serious and this flawed its storyline but Kong: Skull Island plays itself too comically. The film starts well with its mystery and intrigue but once the action kicks in its CGI overload and style definitely takes over substance. It was an interesting concept and an enjoyable watch but in this year of cinema it has become a forgettable addition to the MonsterVerse roster.

Final Verdict – 6.0


Wonder Woman (dir. Patty Jenkins)

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The DC Universe  began with a terrible start with Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman, two terrible films to introduce the universe. A year on from those film we already have a collective Justice League film, something that took Marvel years to prepare. As an introduction to a new set of characters the films have pushed viewers away from their collective origins but Wonder Woman has arrived and breathed some fresh air into the DC roster. Sure this film isn’t perfect and I think most overly positive reviewers got keyboard happy with a DC film that wasn’t a terrible mess.  The biggest problem with DC becomes Zack Snyder’s control over the universes creativity. With Wonder Woman its director Patty Jenkin’s (of Monster fame) becomes its strongest point. Don’t get me wrong the film is well made but its screenplay feels extremely flawed to be the perfect film its made out to be. The films origin story on Themyscira is the biggest flaw the film begins with, this rushed sequence gives you a fraction of screen time it deserved. Iron Man showed us what you can do with a developed origin story and here all you see is the lack of character development because of the rushed screen time. An example of this occurs with the relationship between Diana, her mother and aunt. This story arc is never developed enough for an emotional impact and leaves me wondering if I actually care for these characters. Wonder Woman’s main villain is also a huge weakness in the film and I found the final showdown quite underwhelming. However, there are many positive points about this film including the amazing choreography and the stylised directing from Patty Jenkins. This is the empowering female film we need in 2017 and it is beautiful to see the film finally fleshed out on-screen. Wonder Woman also has some amazing fight sequences from the beach in Themyscira to the famous scene in the trenches.  This film becomes a good comic book adaptions but never becomes the great one I was expecting.

Final Verdict – 7.5


Lady Bird (dir. Greta Gerwig)

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Famed indie actress Greta Gerwig returns to the big screen with her directional debut here with Lady Bird.  A coming of age comedy that is quite comparable to last years ‘The Edge of Seventeen’ with a more complex mother-daughter scenario. The film flows quite naturalistically but I didn’t understand the critical acclaim for Lady Bird. It’s a nice little gem in 2017 but the film plays it too safe to ever break out the mould of this coming of age genre. It doesn’t present anything new to cinema but it has nice dynamics that play out well on-screen especially with a career defining performances from Saorise Ronan in the title role and Laurie Metcalf as her mother. A sharp witty script also makes the narrative of the story flow seamlessly with influences evident from Gerwig’s previous collaborator Noah Baumbach. Lady Bird becomes a nostalgic look back at the 2000’s and the story of growing up and developed from adolescent into adulthood. However, it never really becomes more than that for me. It doesn’t become the unique coming of age story it has been portrayed as and themes have been conveyed before through better films.

Final Verdict – 7.5


The LEGO Batman Movie (dir. Chris McKay)

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I was never a big fan of the original LEGO Movie but as a fan of the Batman franchise I easily fell in love with a film littered in easter eggs. The humour was there, the animation was there, it didn’t feel like I was watching a lego movie instead in its own right it felt like an addition to The Batman’s animated films. If you want to suspend your beliefs for two hours and enjoy a light-hearted take at Batman then this film can be perfect. I especially loved the relationship between Batman and Joker but overall this was a small gem in 2017 that I almost looked over.

Final Verdict – 8.0


Get Out (Dir. Jordan Peele)

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Get Out was by far the biggest surprise of the year, a Horror-Comedy that was also a satirical look at race relations in America. First off categorising this as a comedy is the first flaw audiences make because the end result is such a dark film that the fact we see it as a comedy reveals our desensitization to racism as a whole. Jordan Peele has come through and crafted one of the most original scripts I have seen on-screen for a very long time. This simple story of a Black man meeting his White girlfriends parents is elevated and representative of racism around the world, not only America. Jordan Peele then amps up the film an extra notch by turning Get Out into a Twilight Zone episode full of hypnotism and body swapping. The film never really goes deeper into these themes because in essence these Sci-Fi themes are metaphors for the deeper meaning of racism he is trying to portray. There is a darker malice in the film but the films protagonist manages to handle it with ease until its end. He tries to reassure himself that this causal racism and finger-pointing to his skin tone from his girlfriends family members is just harmless fun. This shows us that even casual racism that has no malicious intent is still racism but regardless of this Peele tries to throw in comic relief into Get Out. A great supporting character was that of Rod, who adds in humour to the film but it never seems out-of-place. He is the character that is written to represent what audience members watching this film are thinking, while Chris is an optimist when it comes to racism; Tod is the pessimist with a humour. Daniel Kaluuya from Black Mirror fame gives a defining career performance that he will be remembered for as Chris Washington. His performance is quite subtle but it is one of the years best performances as he represents the everyday coloured male who isn’t caught up in the racial tensions. Catherine Keener also comes through and gives a dark performance as the hypnotist Missy and performs like I’ve never seen her perform before. I think Get Out was a hard feat to create as a satirical horror that critiqued race relations in America.  It was hard to create a film that did not offend and still managed to please critics and audience members around the world. Sure the themes of the film aren’t really symbolic and a lot of the metaphors are thrown in your face but I don’t think Get Out tries to be a film that relies on subtlety.Jordan Peele leaves little easter egg like metaphors littered throughout his film that relate to race relations. The picking of the cotton to save the protagonist the antagonist keeping her coloured cereal separate to her white milk. This little subtle hints in the film show attention to detail that most films in modern cinema seem to enjoy. Jordan Peele has a message he tries to display to the audience but he builds the world in his film with ease because of these little details. This will be the film from 2017 that will be remembered for years to come and I can see it being analysed through many different film lectures. Get Out was a film that came out early in 2017 but by the end of 2017 it is still being remembered as one of the most important and influential films of the year.

 

Final Verdict – 8.5


 

Call me by your Name (Dir. Luca Guadagnino) 

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One of the years most sombre quiet pieces of cinema that explores the relationship between a teenage boy and an older man. However, this film doesn’t so concentrate on a homosexual relationship and instead focuses on the connection between two people finding themselves and two different points in their lives. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom is the cinematographer here and he beautifully embodies Italy and makes a dream like image for a dream like story on the screen. Aiding the visuals is Sufjan Stevens creating an ethereal score and giving us Mystery of Love one of the best original songs of the year that fits perfectly for this film about the mystery of love. Luca Guadagnino captures this relationship in a sexual but almost platonic manner but the connection between to the two characters seems delicate and fragile. Newcomer Timothee Chalamet gives one of 2017’s best performances and Arnie Hammer is here giving a career defining performance as Chalamet’s love interest. The chemistry between the two characters is beautifully portrayed and captured by Guadagnino. However, for me the film falls short of creating a fully realised perfect picture when compared to other films dealing with the same themes such as Brokeback Mountain. However, the film subtly and its gift of capturing a memory or time of places makes this one of 2017’s best films.

Final Verdict – 8.5


Logan (dir. James Mangold)

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The Magnus Opus of Wolverine portrayal in Cinema and the best film his character has been involved in. Logan was hailed and loved by fans and critics but for me it was a good film but not great. I loved the future world created in this film but I wish there had been more world building so we could see how much the future had really shaped this universe. Based of the Old Man Logan comic’s I found Logan to be a great western but not the Mad Max dystopia portrayed in the original graphic novel. James Mangold played the film off as a western and kept it very dark and very serious and this works to the films advantage. The film had a great storyline that involved the addition of Laura but the final goal storyline of saving the child mutants felt a bit cliché and rushed to me. This personal journey should have been kept between Logan and Laura in my opinion but the film tried to fit in too many wider themes. Great career best performances from Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman makes this an enjoyable film but not the comic book masterpiece some people refer to it as.

Final Verdict – 7.5


Ghost Story (dir. David Lowrey)

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Ghost Story was one of most anticipated films of 2017 and when it arrived i was excited to finally see this love story surround ghosts and spirits. However, the final product was an art house exercise on how not to make a film. I felt like it was trying to be a Terrance Malick film with its visual storytelling but it lacked the cinematography and depth that Malick’s film embodied. The symbolic nature of the film was drawn more from the viewers personal interpretation of scenes throughout the film without the film makers creating a cohesive narrative of visual storytelling. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara gave their broody solemn blank  stares into the distant as if they were waiting for the audience to guess their emotions. The film had a powerful message and a great cast but it fell short for me and gave me no pleasure or deeper thinking from my viewing. This was the longest 90 minute film I had ever seen and no film should ever have you clock watching so much. However, I respect the story David Lowrey tried to create and his message of legacy and loss but the basis of film is entertainment and this did not entertain me.

Final Verdict – 4.0


It (dir. Andy Muschietti)  

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I was really hyped for It and I’m sure many other people were and amongst fans it was loved widely for its representation of its characters. Many comparisons have been through around to Stand By Me and the comparisons are correct. It captures the 80’s as well as Stranger Things does. The representation of its teenage cast, its humour, love and the relationship between them is perfectly realised. Cinematography and film making is also perfectly done but for the horror aspect of this film did not work for me. This is essentially a horror film but I found to not be the least bit scary, this was an 80’s movie filled with horrible modern-day CGI that made the film seem more comical than sinister. Bill Skarsgard was also great as Pennywise but his acting skills did not come into play much because he was overshadowed by the excessive use of CGI. I look forward to part 2 but I wish I could have seen Cary Funkunaga’s version and  this film makes me want to go back and read the book instead of seeing this Horror with no scares.

Final Verdict – 6.5


mother! (dir. Darren Aronofsky)

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Darren Aronofsky is one of my favourite film makers and I’ve enjoyed all of his films (minus Noah). Here he returns with one of his most critically divided movies he has made and even on my first viewing I understood some of the hate. Mother! is a film that relies on its analogy of Mother Earth, God and the creation of the universe and almost through a theatrical presentation Aronofsky throws these huge ideas into a small compound of a house. In this film Earth is set inside a house and history comes together as fragmented pieces of crazy antics from various characters. claustrophobia is the first emotion I got from this film and Matthew Libatique perfectly captures this with his intense close-ups of its characters. The whole films is set inside a house so wide shots are not used much and instead this tension is created through Libatique’s images. The films tension starts off as a mystery and halfway through the film becomes a straight up uncomfortable watch. The tension in this film feels like Hitchcock on acid and the whole film feels like a metaphorical bad trip so I can see how the film is hated. The main cast gives great performances even though Jennifer Lawrence was nominated for a Razzie! In my opinion she gave her best performance and Javier Bardem, Michelle Pffifer  and Ed Harris give amazing yet mysterious performances. Mother! features a very light sound scape score yet I would have loved to see the original score by the late Johann Johansson because in some scenes I feel like a really experimental score would have brought out the images and messages the film was trying to relay to the audience.  Darren Aronofsky takes big themes about life and religion and isolates them into this small location with few characters. I don’t know how he came up with the concept and actually executed it but this is one of the craziest and original films I have ever seen and although divisive it becomes one of my favourite films of the year.

Final Verdict – 8.5


Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (dir. Martin McDonaugh)

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Martin McDonaugh returns with his follow up to In Bruges and Seven Psychopath. His skills of portraying black comedy have travelled into a political film full of many undertones about the state of America. This tragedy plays out like a play in its confined Midwest town and at the centre of it are the selection of characters who put together the ensemble in Three Billboards. Frances McDormand takes the title role as the grieving mother with a vicious temper. Opposed to her are the two cops, good cop played by Woody Harrelson and bad cop played by Sam Rockwell. All three of these actors give amazing performances and carry the dark weight of the world through its comedic stance on reality.  At the centre of this film surrounding loss you see the spectrum of life that it tries to portray. What makes the film so unique is the amazing performances from the whole ensemble of actors behind this piece of cinema and that drives this film into a deeper sense of realism. This film becomes one of the best Coen brother films not directed by the Coen brothers, from its midtown USA story to its bleak humour trying to show us a different side of the human psyche. Using black comedy Three Billboards makes a film that represents various themes of American society in a twisted light-hearted way whilst exploring life, loss and grief. It has also become relevant around the world when dealing with issues ignored by Government and Police with the Three Billboards ideology inspiring more people to stand up and rise against the rules of society. Sure the film takes a more rebellious nature with its revolt but McDonaugh’s film comes out during a relevant and dark time of history.

Final Verdict – 8.5


 

Phantom Thread (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

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As a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis this seemed like the perfect pairing not seen on-screen since the masterpiece that was There Will Be Blood. However, what we got in return was slow sombre film about the toxicity of relationships and obsessions. To me the screenplay was bizarre, it had a good overall theme it was trying to achieve but the way it was executed fell flat for me. I’m a fan of slow character pieces but this seemed quite drab. For most half of the film it was enjoyable but in other areas it fell flat. I’ve been a fan of all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films and for me this was my least enjoyable. I even fell in love with Inherent Vice which divided a lot of critics and audiences members. I thought Phantom Thread would be one of my favourite films of the year but the story seemed to drag a small idea across the two-hour run time. Its an odd film because it had so many parts of it that worked, the cinematography which was collectively done by various members of the crew was beautiful and almost fog lit, moving like a dream like trance. The New Years Eve scene in particular was one of the most beautiful scenes that spoke a thousand words through its imagery about the characters and their feelings. The whole supporting cast gave great performances and Daniel Day Lewis did not disappoint giving one of the most impressive performances of the year. Even the score was perfect, with Johnny Greenwood returning to give a classic score that fitted in so well with the trance like imagery. So many things worked well with this film but the script is its foundation and that’s where the problems lay.

Final Verdict – 7.0


The Shape of Water (dir. Guillermo Del Toro)

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Guillermo Del Toro is a unique director with a style that hasn’t been replicated by any other director. With The Shape of Water he creates one of his best films (although Pan’s Labyrinth is still my favourite. This is his homage to the B-movies of the past, in particular The Creature from the Black Lagoon. However, here he has mixed in classic Hollywood film making to lift this B-movie into classic status. It’s a small-scale picture, filmed amongst a handful of locations but cinematographer Dan Lausten creates this dream like vibe throughout the whole film, while the film drifts from scene to scene seamlessly. Guillermo creates this story that seems like a real life fairytale, the story of a princess who could not speak. The whole film feels like a fable straight from the mind of Guillermo and even the score by Alexander Desplat shines and he keeps the child like wonder alive, showcasing the curiosity inside all of us. The score and editing itself seems straight out of new wave french cinema reminding me a lot of Amelie and how up beat but surreal it all felt. Guillermo stated this was the film he wanted to make as a child and it shows through the film, it very much feels like a passion project. Here we have one of the best films of the year and one that I don’t think could ever be replicated. Aside from the fish monster himself the person who stole the show was Sally Hawkins playing a mute janitor and giving the best performance of her career. Like the fish monster himself she is unable to project her thoughts and feelings through speech and everything is portrayed through body language. The Shape of Water is like a B movie mixed in with Golden Age Hollywood and an adult Disney or Studio Ghibli fable. It covers so many themes and at the end of the film it felt like I had just travelled through a dream so gently, slowly transported by the amazing cinematography, acting and the sounds of Desplat. In a year full of many original idea’s this is the film that feels like it was executed to its fullest potential.

Final Verdict – 9.0

 

Additional films I saw this year. 

The Darkest hour – 8.0

Justice League – 3.0

Thor Ragnorak – 7.5

Okja – 7.0

Thelma – 7.5

The Killing of the Sacred Deer 8.0

A Fantastic Woman – 7.5

The Disaster Artist – 8.0

The Beguiled – 7.0

war of the planet of the apes – 7.5

Spiderman homecoming – 7.5

Alien Covenant – 6.0

Beauty and the Beast – 6.0

Downsizing – 7.5

Mudbound  – 8.0

The Lost City of Z – 8.5

Split – 7.5

Big Sick – 7.5

Blade of the Immortal – 8.0

Victoria and Abdul – 7.5

The Florida Project – 6.0

i, Tonya – 7.5

Thelma – 7.5

 

 

 

 

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