This was really hard.
Most years because it’s hard because we go to the cinema once or twice a week and it’s hard to whittle down, but this year it was hard to find ten films I really loved. So I’ve settled for LIKED for the most part and the big surprise for me is that the movies I liked best were outside the genres I adore. After the creative high-point of 2014 this is such a shame. I never thought a movie where Superman and Batman met Wonder Woman wouldn’t be in my top ten and was so bleak I couldn’t take my Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman obsessed children. But we’re living in strange times, the greatest consolation being that pretty much everything in 2017 looks incredible and this year (and most of last) just a creative blip in Hollywood I suspect. After almost two decades of awesome genre pictures the creative people of Los Angeles are entitled to a few that didn’t quite work out.
So my top ten is - in order -
1/ ZOOTROPOLIS - Cool, funny and ORIGINAL. I went in expecting nothing and came out texting all my friends to go and see it. Disney ruling the world again this year and as all eyes are on Marvel and Star Wars and Pixar let’s tip our hats to Disney Animation who I genuinely think have far surpassed modern Pixar and where the action truly is again.
2/ NOCTURNAL ANIMALS - Amy Adams makes us instantly forgive her for Batman Vs Superman and reminds us that she’s pretty much the best actress working in Hollywood right now with a range that runs from Disney Princess to the darkest shit imaginable.
3/ THE JUNGLE BOOK - Live action Jungle Book? I wasn’t interested. Directed by Jon Fav? I’m 100% in. This was really brilliantly made and charming and just a kinda perfect movie. Live Action Lion King next? Not interested. Directed by Jon Fav? Count me in.
4/ HACKSAW RIDGE - Mel Gibson is plain and simple one of the greatest living directors and Garfield is one of the best actors of his generation. I can’t wait to see this again in the UK.
5/ 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE - Established Dan Trachtenberg as the new director to watch. Excellent. i don’t even mind the tacked on ending because it’s bonkers enough to be completely unexpected. Let’s hope there isn’t a sequel though as it just becomes another franchise then whereas this is like a great little Twilight Zone.
6/ DON’T BREATHE - Fede Alvarez nails it again. A lot of movies in recent times seem to be set in a confined space with someone kidnapped and trapped in a cellar, but these two are absolutely the cream of that crop.
7/ STAR TREK BEYOND - This movie didn’t get enough love and I suspect it was paying for the crimes of Star Trek Into Darkness because it was a far, far superior movie and deserved to do a lot better. A hugely likeable film with really fun characters. Probably the only blockbuster from this year I would watch again.
8/ HELL OR HIGH WATER - The Chris Pine movie we’ve been waiting for since the first Stark Trek.
9/ THE NICE GUYS - Sub the leads for Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone and this ridiculously fun Shane Black movie could have been made word for word 25 years ago. But that’s what I loved about it. I just sank into the warm bath that this movie was and enjoyed myself for two hours. Really, really, really fun and this is a reminder that I need to pick it up on DVD.
10/ DR STRANGE - Just a nice, fun Marvel movie. The only comic-book flick to hit my top 10 this year, which feels weird, but the Marvel formula is a solid one and this was a nice hark back to before they went a little too dark and serious and had lots of nice jokes and asshole-learning-to-be-a-hero leads. Marvel’s genius is the casting and like Hemsworth and Downey Jr, Cumberbatch holds this movie together with his terrific presence. The American accent I think was a mistake in the same way giving Colin Firth a Kentucky accent would seem weird on film as it’s an actor we understand to be quintessentially English. But it’s a minor quibble and a nice film with a good third act (where Marvel’s origin movies in particular usually stumble a little).
I liked Deadpool and it had some really nice action sequences, the third act especially impressive give they had about 10p to make this movie. X-Men: Apocalypse was also good. After 16 years and 8 pictures, we’ve seen a lot of these characters, but I’m still invested and after a lot of comic-book flicks that just feel part of a wider, not that interesting story that never ends I kind of liked the sense of completeness this movie had. The Prof X turning on Apocalypse stuff at the end was pretty good and overall it had some good moments. Not up there with DOFP, but still enjoyable. Midnight Special was fantastic. I’m a huge fan of Jeff and we’d talked to him about Huck earlier this year. It was great seeing him tackle this genre. So many fantastic wee details. The Shallows was also a great surprise. I love a good shark movie and this was a good shark movie.
DIDN’T REALLY DIG:
Civil War had a good opening twenty mins, but then I honestly can’t remember what the movie was about. It’s interesting the Russos have a background in comedy because it’s really missing in these otherwise well-made pictures and very, very missed. I really hope this bleakness doesn’t extend into their two Avengers pictures because what made that first Avengers work was the light as well as shade and I’ll be sad if that’s all lost like it was in this picture.
Finding Dory I was tough going. Finding Nemo, like Cars, was the moment I realised Pixar could be iffy, but the most annoying character in the movie getting their own picture meant my kids had to practically take me there at gunpoint (they loved it, btw).
Hail Caesar was The Coens at their self-indulgent worst. This movie was a long night out and Cassiday in Preacher is 100% right. They can be great when they try, but they need someone to tell them when they’re going off the rails. A third brother maybe?
Ghostbusters I wanted to love because all the bad guys hated it. The weirdest people on the Internet didn’t want it to exist because the picture had female leads, which only made me want to love it just to annoy them. Sadly, however, it was the worst kind of comedy in that it just wasn’t funny. I didn’t laugh once, even when I was trying really hard to.
Batman Vs Superman I think we should just leave alone. Like Suicide Squad, WB has just decided to go a certain way with these movies and their logic is that they don’t want to look like Marvel films. It’s not how I feel these characters work best and sadly my DC-obsessed kids (I’m a DC guy way more than I’m a Marvel guy) can’t see their favourite characters in the cinema. Their TV and animation departments are working beautifully. I’d love to see some of that same light applied to their theatrical division.
Rogue One I think had a really, really brilliant concept at the heart of it. A flaw in Star Wars, which struck me even as a kid, was that a giant kill machine like the Death Star should never have been built with a colossal design flaw that let’s you blow it up. The idea that a man had been forced to build this and had structured it to have this weakness as his revenge is fantastic. I love it. I also like the idea of a Dirty Dozen style bunch of renegades sent on a mission too. But sadly, the movie itself didn’t really work for me. The plot (by Gary Whitta) I’ll bet was bloody brilliant, but all those other names in the credits makes me think this was hurt by rewrites and the two lead actors had huge charisma problems, completely miscast for a big adventure movie, which was a shame as I’m the biggest Star Wars fan in the world. I’m glad people are digging it though because some nice people involved in the making of it.
WORST OF THE YEAR: No contest. Independence Day 2. It was actually jaw-dropping. I went with two of my brothers and fell asleep for 10 mins. One brother said he envied me for missing those ten minutes, another brother saying that after seeing this film he envied THE DEAD. It was cool seeing the guy from Taxi outracing a tidal wave though.
High hopes for Episode 8. Rian Johnson is a genius and it’s got MARK HAMILL in it. Also can’t wait for Thor 3 and Guardians 2. James Gunn has established himself as pretty much my favourite director in Hollywood at the moment and every single thing I’ve seen and heard on Thor looks incredible. 2017 is the the new 2014. Oh, and let’s not forget Kingsman: The Golden Circle, a first cut of which I should hopefully see at Christmas when I’m up at Matthew’s place for grub. Spider-Man I’m excited about. That kid is great and the clips so far are all really fun. Logan I’m hoping is good. Pirates (to my absolute shock) I’ve heard is amazing and up there with the first one. Wonder Woman looks like it could be good and Lego Batman looks like it’s going to steal the year for me. Can’t wait for all this!