Overall it has been a very good year for movies. There were a number of big budget films that failed to deliver at the box office leading the usual headlines about the death of cinema as we know it. It was more like franchise fatigue with films that were really only there to kick off a series. They forgot that they also had to tell a story, a lesson which cost some dearly. Anyway, the list below represents the best times I had at the movies this year with one exception. The Shape Of Water is the best film I have seen this year but as the UK release date was postponed until February 2018 it sadly cannot form part of the list.
In a strong year for horror films, the return of It was a major highlight. The key elements that made it great were the casting and the story. Bill Skarsgard was a genius piece of casting as Pennywise. He oozed evil from the first moment we saw him. The film wisely avoided the split storyline of the book and the TV mini series, instead focusing on the kids story. It was a wonderfully creepy adventure film that left you looking forward the concluding part of the story.
9. The Killing Of A Sacred Deer
Yorgos Lanthimos is a film maker you either love or hate. His films are very stylised with stilted, awkward dialogue which can be off putting. Colin Farrell is superb in the main role as a heart surgeon who befriends a teenage boy of a former patient. Bringing the boy into his and his family’s life has dire consequences. It is a compelling and very unsettling film that had me thinking of it for days afterwards. Always a good sign.
Under other circumstances, mother! would not have received all the negative publicity that came its way. It is an art house film that, for financial reasons only, was marketed and distributed to mainstream audiences. Many hated it as it wasn’t what they expect from a Jennifer Lawrence film. I found it to be one of the most out there films of the year. The religious symbolism was laid on a bit thickly but the last third of the movie is unlike anything I have observed on the big screen. Another one that stayed with me and definitely required a second viewing.
7. Free Fire
After the success of High Rise, Ben Wheatley was in a position to command a larger budget and a more well known cast for Free Fire. The film is basically a fifteen minute set up and an eighty minute gun fight. It is glorious in its excess. The way Wheatley uses a single location and the way that everyone involved in the fire fight is not exactly the best marksman is a joy to watch. The script is full of cracking one liners and it features a track from John Denver who has turned out to be the artist of the year having featured in four major movies this year.
6. Logan Lucky
The return of Steven Soderbergh to the big screen. As if he was really away at all. He uses the familiar story of a heist, sets it in West Virginia (John Denver again) and populates the cast with Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and a quite magnificent performance from Daniel Craig. Soderbergh is wise enough to be aware that comparisons would be made with the Oceans movies and gets a reference in there first while twisting the story in such a way that it feels fresh and funny.
5. La La Land
The first truly great moment in cinema this year came during La La Land. Mia meets Sebastian for the first time as he is playing the piano in a club. It is such a powerful moment and sets up the rest of the film. La La Land has its detractors and it is true that it isn’t a true musical. That shouldn’t take anything away from the delight that is Gosling and Stone singing and dancing together. It is right up there in terms of musicals that have that re-watchability factor.
4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Surprisingly The Last Jedi has come in for a lot of criticism from fans of the franchise who don’t like the way that the story has been taken after the success of The Force Awakens. Rian Johnson has ripped up the playbook to a certain extent and crafted a film that changes everything. It is not what was expected for the middle part of a trilogy and feels in a way like a finale. Emphasis has been placed on character development over space battles though there is scope for both. The ten seconds of silence is one of the best scenes you will see this year. Jonson has ensured that we are not sure as to how it will move forward. This, for a series of very well known films, is a very good thing.
3. War For The Planet Of The Apes
No one would have predicted that the reboot of the Apes franchise would have produced three excellent movies. The last of the Caeser trilogy was arguably the strongest of the lot. A superb central performance from Andy Serkis was the stand out for me. The technology has come on so much that his performance shines through even more as he is able to capture the torment and frustration that Caeser feels while trying to protect his tribe at the beginning of the film and then later in a stunning prison escape sequence.
2. Baby Driver
A film that captures your attention from the first minute. It makes you sit up straight and watch it as you realise you haven’t seen anything like it before. In each scene the action is choreographed to the music. It makes for a truly exhilarating experience. Ansel Elgort is superb as the title character. A young man with a tinnitus problem who is a talented getaway driver. Through a series of jobs his life gets complicated with his infatuation with Debra a waitress at a local diner. Another movie that bears repeat viewing, especially to catch some of the things you miss the first time. Special mention has to go to the least likely Blur song to be included in a car chase sequence.
1. Brawl in Cell Block 99
This was the most full on cinema experience of the year for me. I caught it during a screening that was totally packed and I can honestly say that I have never had an experience like it. Vince Vaughn is a tough guy caught up in a situation that requires him to pay a debt to protect his family. The debt involves getting himself sent to a high security prison to settle a score for the men threatening Vaughn’s character. How he goes about it is not for the squeamish. The fight scenes, and there are a few, are brutal to say the least. To be in a crowd while bones were broken and other unspeakable acts were carried out is something you hold on to. The cinematic experience of the year and therefore the film of the year for me.