Happy New Year everyone! In Film, As In Life may have taken a short break for the last few months of 2017, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t spending time at the cinema, catching up on all the films I could see. Sadly I didn’t get around to reviewing them all last year, but it’s a new year, and I plan to be back with a new review or post for you each and every week.
To catch you all up on some of the films I’ve seen since I last posted (the last review I posted was back in September, for Atomic Blonde – can you believe it? Did you miss me?), and to look back at the year gone by, I’ve compiled my Top Ten Films of 2017 list – I hope you enjoyed these films as much as I did!
The best superhero movies are the ones that don’t feel like superhero movies, and Logan blew me away with its bold choices, depth of character development, and simple yet emotional storytelling. Hugh Jackman gives a career-best performance as Logan, who’s looking after a severely deteriorating Professor X (Patrick Stewart, also giving a devastating performance) after the demise of the X-Men, when a mysterious young girl with familiar powers (Dafne Keen) appears with news of young mutants living in North Dakota. Filled with a brutal brand of violence that Wolverine deserves, Logan is a raw, heartbreaking culmination for a character we’ve loved for decades, and the perfect end to the Wolverine franchise.
- Wonder Woman
Almost the antithesis to Logan, but also fantastic in its own right, Wonder Woman was every bit a superhero movie – and everything a superhero movie should be. Taking the breakout character from 2016’s Batman vs Superman and giving her a WWI-set origin story, Wonder Woman sees Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) travel journey from her warrior’s paradise on Themyscira to the world of man, to fight Ares, the God of War, and save humanity from the devastation of the Great War. Though much of the film’s sincerity and heart comes from its director Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot carries the film on her shoulders as the charismatic, fierce, loving hero Diana, a role model for women everywhere as she bursts onto No Man’s Land and defends those she loves, and a step forward in representation for women onscreen. An optimistic film in a cynical time, Wonder Woman was the breath of fresh air 2017 definitely needed.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
My love of the Spider-Man movies is well known and documented – I was a huge Tobey Maguire-web-slinger fan as a kid, and after the MCU debut of Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War, I was hooked and ready to see Tom Holland’s solo debut in Homecoming. And he didn’t disappoint: part superhero film, part teen comedy, Spider-Man: Homecoming focused just as much on Peter’s growing pains as a high schooler whose life is going through major upheaval with his powers, as it did with the heart-stopping action scenes that we’ve come to love and expect. Not only was the film sweet, fun and funny, but Tom Holland was perfect as the precocious Peter, making me even more excited to see him fight alongside the Avengers later this year in Infinity War.
- The Beguiled
The Beguiled was a very different kind of female-driven movie this year: set in the South during the Civil War, it centres on a small girls school led by headmistress Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) and her young pupils, who take in an injured Yankee soldier and nurse him back to health. But things get dark when jealousy erupts between these women, all of whom have spent much of their lives isolated from men, and none of the young women know who they can trust – or even who the real villain of the house is. Filled with nuanced, powerful performances across the board, the Beguiled is a fascinating film about the complexity of female relationships, coming of age, sexuality, and the importance of sisterhood.
- Baby Driver
Baby Driver was by far the coolest movie of 2017. It may even be director Edgar Wright’s coolest movie to date, which is saying a lot. Starring Ansel Elgort as Baby, a talented getaway driver with tinnitus who listens to music constantly to drown it out, almost the entire film is choreographed (and edited) to its amazing soundtrack – which means we get car chases set to the Damned, and coffee runs set to Harlem Shuffle. Its fantastic ensemble cast (Jon Hamm, Lily James, Jamie Foxx) is second only to its originality of storytelling, and as you watch it, you feel like you’re watching something fresh, new, and satisfying.
- The Big Sick
The Big Sick was the little indie darling that could this year, a hilarious yet emotional romantic comedy written by real-life married couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon about the fascinating story of how they got together. Kumail (playing himself) is a Pakistani-born stand-up comedian struggling with his family’s more traditional views of marriage; Emily (here played by a wonderful Zoe Kazan) is a psychology grad student who heckles him at a gig, but their newfound relationship soon finds trouble when Emily falls into a coma due to a mysterious illness. The Big Sick is a heartfelt look at love and the importance of family, with a poignant, yet very funny, script, and is filled with career-best performances from Ray Romano, Holly Hunter and Nanjiani himself. And it’s just been nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award! Not only was the Big Sick one of the most genuine, feel-good films I saw this year, but it was one of the best romantic comedies I have ever seen (it’s both extremely funny, and very romantic), and if you didn’t see it this year, I highly recommend you track it down.
- Wind River
Wind River was an even smaller film this year, but it probably had one of the biggest emotional impacts on me as a cinema-going experience. Starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner, Wind River follows a veteran tracker (Renner) who is still grieving the death of his young daughter, as he helps a naïve FBI agent (Olsen) solve the murder of a local young Native American woman in the dead of winter. Jeremy Renner gives a heartbreaking performance as Cory, a white man whose life has been torn apart by violence, and is seeking retribution for the family of the murder victim, who was best friends with his own murdered daughter. Olson also gives a very complex performance as an outsider in this Native American community, and as the mystery behind what really happened becomes clearer and even more devastating, the film gives you only a few small moments of catharsis, with the film’s final emotional punch as unrelenting as the breathtaking blizzard that rages throughout the entire film.
- Ingrid Goes West
Continuing my trend of fantastic independent cinema, Ingrid Goes West is a biting satire of social media, authenticity and LA culture. Aubrey Plaza is captivating as Ingrid, an Instagram-addicted stalker who has just found her new obsession: photographer and “lifestyle guru” Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). She moves to LA and constructs this fake life and personality around herself as she befriends Taylor, but, the further into the lie she entangles herself, the further she has to fall when it all unravels. Movies about social media rarely work, but this one does on so many levels – it’s realistic, and terrifying, but also incredibly dark and comedic, a cautionary tale about oversharing and the authenticity of our online selves versus reality. This is Plaza’s best role since April on Parks and Rec, but Elizabeth Olsen is also fantastic, as is Billy Magnussen as her coked-up brother and O’Shea Jackson Jr as an aspiring fanboy screenwriter. Ingrid Goes West is probably my favourite film of the year, and if you can find it anywhere, I promise you it’s worth your time.
Oh, man. Coco is the latest film to come out of Pixar, so grab the tissues and prepare yourself. It follows Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy who loves to play the guitar, but his family despises music, after his musician great-great grandfather abandoned his family years and years ago. On Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead, and must find his great-great grandfather, the legendary singer Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) to receive his blessing and return home. In their most stunningly colourful animation since Inside Out, Pixar have created their emotional film to date, a beautiful story about passion, family, and remembering where you came from. Miguel’s journey through the Land of the Dead is breathtaking, both visually and through the lore of what happens after you die, and is filled with vibrant music in traditional Mexican style, as well as heartbreaking moments that would melt even the coldest heart. Coco is truly a Pixar film to make you feel human again.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Unlike the many, very vocal, people on the internet, I actually loved Star Wars: The Last Jedi so, so much. It accomplished many of the things a truly great sequel must: it took characters we were familiar with and helped them grow across their journey, with Rey coming to terms with a Luke that is barely recognisable and growing stronger in the ways of the Force herself. It established new, complex and interesting relationship between characters we’ve barely see interact before, as Rey and Kylo Ren’s fascinating Force connection and Leia and Poe’s more lighthearted friendship showed us. It expanded upon the lore of the previous films, with the Force working in new and interesting ways, and it also gave us some of the best fight sequences and moments ever seen in Star Wars. Whilst much of Finn, Rose and the Resistance’s storyline clearly didn’t work and was quite boring, I can commend it for bringing into the story powerful themes about the blurred lines between good and evil, an idea which will surely come into greater focus in the trilogy’s final instalment, but I think the thing I enjoyed most about The Last Jedi was that it was unafraid to take risks. Things don’t turn out exactly how you expected them to, and people change, and whilst this may have rubbed some people the wrong way, it made me even more excited about the future of Star Wars. “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.” Star Wars will only remain great if it stays fresh and new within itself, and after Last Jedi, I have hope that it will.
And that’s my top ten of 2017! What was yours? Let me know in the comments!
Also, I know I’ve been pretty absent for the last six or so months, but this time I plan on sticking around, so stay tuned for reviews of my favourite films through the year ahead!
Photos taken from IMDb.com: