Best and Worst of 2017

2017 has proven to be a critically successful year, but in terms of genre films it has given some pretty divisive experiences.
Personally, this is the first year that Disney / Marvel Studios has failed to deliver a Top 10 worthy experience. While their three heavy hitters this year, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 were all great fun, the Marvel formula is more rampant than ever and I couldn’t bring myself to put any of these above such concise and unique experiences such as John Wick Chapter 2 or Get Out. While Justice League floundered, Wonder Woman was great but again only equal to the quality Marvel is currently dishing out.

But the year started out extremely strong, with a riveting Academy Award season with La La Land and Moonlight going toe-to-toe and causing an embarrassing event on the big day. We had Get Out, an incredible production from a debut director, Manchester by the Sea and Fences (two films I sadly missed) and even early 20th Century Fox’s Logan proved that there was still awesome directions the X-Men films could go.

There were a lot less unnecessary sequels, reboots and disastrous remakes this year compared to 2016, but still enough to be noticed. Beauty and the Beast, The Mummy (which point blank destroyed its expanded universe immediately), T2 – Trainspotting, even Transformers: The Last Knight finally broke this fan…
But there aren’t any films I really hated this year, I mostly avoided truly bad movies like The Bye Bye Man. In fact the bottom of the list should be seen as simply below-average instead of truly bad (with some exceptions).

So overall, it was a good year. There were some stinkers and there were plenty of divisive movies to keep us all talking, as well as some genuinely unique and memorable experiences. Some of which I won’t soon forget!

So starting with the 10 best, and working our way down through everything else and ending with the 10 worst, in descending order.
Enjoy. Or don’t. Opinions!

Theatrical Releases of 2017

1. Dunkirk
Before you cry “Nolan fanboy!”, need I remind you I thought Interstellar was massively overrated.
Director Christopher Nolan has a style, a very distinct style, and with it comes a unique and incredible war movie the likes of which we have never seen. Dunkirk may lack the traditional heart and passion of every other war film ever made, but that is for its betterment; this is about the tension, the pressure and the heartbeat moments between life and death. Incredible production values, fantastic sound design that keeps you pinned to your seat and a challenging and unique way of unravelling the traditional screenplay structure. Superbly memorable.
– Read the Review

2. Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner 2049 did something that few sequels or reboots can ever do: Capture the exact sensation and mood of a film 30+ years old. But more than that, director Denis Villeneuve made a stand alone experience, it didn’t pander to nostalgia or distract you with dated references, this film took a universe and built upon it faithfully. Something new directors entering a franchise seem incapable of doing at the best of times.
Shockingly gorgeous sound design, score, production value and visuals, Blade Runner 2049 is a testimony to how films can be resurrected when given the correct, titanic amount of effort.
Read the Review

3. Logan
I don’t think I’ve ever cried at a superhero movie before, and in this period of cinema it seemed unlikely to ever happen given how marketable it has become. But Logan is a flash-in-the-pan, one time experience that will never be replicated again (at least in the next ten, twenty years). Nearly two decades of film-making, the sum total of actors Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart’s colossal careers in the genre come crashing to a close in this definitive swansong to their characters.
While I couldn’t put it higher due to the required 20 years of respect and fandom, I couldn’t put it lower for the same reason. A bloody, violent but oh-so tragic and incredibly sad experience. For once, just once, we cared about superheroes like they were dramatic characters.
Read the Review

4. Moonlight
Probably deserving of the top spot in many people’s lists, the Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Moonlight is one of those films you cannot fault. Films like these simply cannot best my biased towards some genre movies.
The film is challenging on so many levels, yet it does not sledgehammer its purpose or its intentions; the film is incredibly subtle and emotive, kind yet tragically gripping as it defines a generation of lost and confused young people. It is beautifully made and carefully constructed, without a single performance out of place or a scene poorly paced or edited, a character-based story that captivates absolutely. I am not one for falling for Oscar movies (the Academy has annoyed me many times) but this is a proud exception.
Read the Review

5. Okja
I never would have thought Netflix would be making movies, let alone for those movies to make it into my top ten! The Korean directed film by Joon-ho Bong does its level best at making you vegetarian, a story that could have been a gorgeous Studio Ghibli animation about a scientifically created “Super-Pig”, designed to end world hunger. All of the classic heart-string pulling devices are there, from glamorous but psychotic industrial tycoons to lush, countryside living heroes. But Okja’s comedic chops (oops, no pun intended) is everything one expects from Joon-ho Bong, and while a CG giant pig is in attendance, the slapstick action adventure is as thrilling as it is emotional.
Read the Review

6. Hidden Figures
This film does not get the attention it deserves, in fact I think it slipped under a lot of people’s radars this year. Hidden Figures is a joyful and vital movie, it isn’t just a celebration of NASA and the pioneering exploits of mankind (that are being sorely neglected lately) but more importantly the celebration of the hardworking and under-appreciated women in scientific industries, and the sheer lunacy that was being enforced (and some times still is today) to degrade them. This is the sort of “girl power” story I can get behind, clear evidence that everyone is equal and can do incredible things when given even the smallest opportunity. Please watch this film if you haven’t already.
Read the Review

7. It
Hopefully this is the first (but probably not last) big surprise of my top ten. This new adaptation of Stephen King’s It provided somewhat divisive to audiences; hardcore horror fans left disappointed, but general audiences lapped it up. While I have not read the book (and maybe that is my failing) I found the film’s jovial spontaneity to its scares extremely refreshing. With a monster as unpredictable as Pennywise, Bill Skarsgard is incredibly scary in a truly deranged manner, and the film’s style only intensifies that sense of complete surreality and unorthodoxy.
Springboarding off the recent success of Netflix’s Stranger Things and neatly avoiding some of the book’s more… questionable content, the film was an overnight success. I cannot wait for the follow-up.
Read the Review

8. Free Fire
Okay, okay, maybe this is the most questionable entry to my top ten?
Free Fire is perhaps my most guilty of pleasures on this list and it could be because of some lowered expectations. From the director and writing team behind High-Rise, which I found to be a pretentious waste of my time, Free Fire was a tremendously funny and surprisingly well-executed fire fight.
No really. A bunch of people shoot at each other in a warehouse, that’s it. Brie Larson, Shartlo Copley, Armie Hammer and Cillian Murphy all ham it up tremendously, but it is the film-making and editing that makes it; you know exactly where people are, the sense of space around them and the sound design, you know exactly where bullets are flying with the smallest bit of visual information.
Don’t expect anything intelligent from it, it is just a crazy shoot-out. Like a test-run for a Tarantino scene.
Read the Review

9. A Monster Calls
From very early in the year, another film that actually made me cry. My love for Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth was sated with this American made movie about a bullied and traumatised young boy who is forced to grow up too fast, who sees a gigantic monster, who may or may not be real, serving as an outlet for the boy’s emotions.
Sometimes the hardest life lessons can only be evoked with a fantastical setting, and A Monster Calls drives home some very grim and very sad messages that affected me greatly.
Wonderful and heart-breaking performances from Sigourney Weaver and child actor Lewis MacDougall (we should expect more from him) and Liam Neeson providing the monster’s voice.
Read the Review

10. John Wick: Chapter 2
I do love action movies, and the original John Wick did just fine on its own, I didn’t think a sequel was even necessary. But Chapter 2 really pushes the needle to eleven and actor Keanu Reeves delivers some jaw-dropping gun-play with merciless, calculated precision as virtually everyone is out to kill him. It is wonderful to see a nice guy such as Reeves make such great movies, especially post-Matrix.
With lavish sets and silly but endearing dialogue (who talks about guns like they are at a wine tasting, anyway?) the John Wick movies are a tremendously good time for seamless action and steady camera work. Which is almost a dying art these days.
Read the Review

Get Out
Thor: Ragnarok
Gerald’s Game
Hacksaw Ridge
Wonder Woman
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Baby Driver
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
The Void
The Lego Batman Movie
La La Land
A Cure for Wellness
War for the Planet of the Apes
The Disaster Artist
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
It Comes at Night
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
T2 – Trainspotting
The Mummy (2017)
Kong: Skull Island
Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets
The Dark Tower
Justice League
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Whisky Galore! (2017)
Cars 3

10. Transformers: The Last Knight
If you know Cinema Cocoa, you know my bizarre affection and near limitless patience when it comes to Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. I love Transformers, and I find a lot to enjoy in the movies despite how bad they are.
Transformers: The Last Knight isn’t exactly the worst of the series (the second one still holds that title) but what The Last Knight did for me… was completely up-end any sense of continuity the series had. Yes, most people see these films as loud, dumb, sexually-objectifying dumpster fires, but I liked the concepts they could have gone with. But no… this is the literal scraping of the barrel, this undermines and fully reveals (to me) how pointless and repetitive this has all been.
Read the Review

9. Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge
Similarly, Pirates 5 (aka Dead Men Tell No Tales), is another exercise in futility. Almost a complete retread of the first and best Pirates movie, what with a new romantic central couple for Jack Sparrow to play third wheel off of and a new host of evil ghost pirates, and who knows what else to pad out a colossal run time, this film is simply boring. The ship has sailed, as they say, and while the music is still pumping, the action scenes are garbled and messy. Just watch the first one again. You really aren’t missing anything by skipping this entirely.
Read the Review

8. Fast and Furious 8
Okay. Even I am slowly accepting that the Fast and the Furious franchise is doing its own thing now and isn’t how it began, but really. The Fate of the Furious is so, so, so dumb. In the last film these street racer nerds could do martial arts for some reason, now they can do military-grade covert ops? Nope. Sorry. Nope.
Tied in with a stupid “because we can” mentality, this film actually undoes the one fundamental principle of its characters. Say it with me, with Vin Diesel’s classic drawl: “Family”. What, the guy who killed one of our family and hunted us down like dogs no less than a single movie ago? SURE, he can be in our family now! Look, he even has a comedic Helen Mirren for a mum, all things forgiven eh? Now let’s talk macho and beat each other over the bald heads with more tables.
Read the Review

7. Death Race 2050
What’s funny is, I can defend this film when people don’t “get” it. Death Race 2000 was a unique and bizarre creation of the 1970s, and Death Race 2050 is exactly the same thing, without any glossy help from the 2010s state-of-the-art film-making, or any lessons learned from four decades of cinema. It is however an attempted remake, a film designed to infuse new technology into the franchise. This works at times, an AI driven car, the public using VR headsets to be in the driver’s seat, but it also felt lacking and restricted in some of its modernization that left me wanting more. That and the comedy is positively dreadful, the characters irritating and grating to listen to, and the character of Frankenstein woefully misunderstood (something even the Statham movies mastered) makes Death Race 2050 completely insane and not very good.
Read the double Review

6. Atomic Blonde
A film that very nearly was amazing, but like many style-over-substance movies quickly nose-dived into mediocrity. A film that banks so heavily on “Charlize Theron is hot” (and really, it could be forgiven for this) it forgot to do anything else of substance.
Tonally weird, from a bloodless headshot execution in the opening, to a full-blown bloodbath in the finale, and a screenwriting disaster zone, with a framing device that takes all tension out of the John Wick-styled kill-or-be-killed action sequences. That and a needlessly complex storyline that can only be achieved within a poorly written spy movie.
The definition of style-over-substance, Atomic Blonde isn’t bad, but it is criminally forgettable.
Read the Review

5. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
I actually ran to the cinema to see this (sure, I was running late, but the fact remains) as I really enjoyed Kingsman: The Secret Service by director Matthew Vaughn. The sequel, featuring a returning cast and crew, is a monumental misfire to a baffling degree.
While some set designs and concepts within are wonderfully “Kingsman”, there are truly horrendous groaners and cliches that uproot any sense of… well, sense. Stormtroopers are better at shooting than any of the bad guys in this film! Colin Firth is the most redundant “twist”/returning character I have ever seen, a total waste of character development and storytelling, while the villain’s plan is so stupid and completely unfeasible that the audience is left dangling without any sense of… well, sense.
Just watch the first one again.
Read the Review

4. Assassin’s Creed
The video game movie to redeem video game movies. We all hoped. Video game company Ubisoft had a slight misfire with Prince of Persia, but maybe they could redeem themselves with a second try.
Sadly not. Assassin’s Creed suffers from over-complication in its screenplay and choppy editing. Had it followed the game’s more elusive, mysterious undertones (instead of casting Jeremy Irons as the definitely-not-*cough*villain*cough*) among other ridiculously obvious signposting, this film wouldn’t have been such a dreadful bore. If it had stuck with the far more interesting character of Aguilar and not the “science to remove all violent tendencies” mumbo-jumbo, and vastly improved the editing style in the combat, this could have been bearable.
Read the Review

3. Alien: Covenant
Ohhhh dear.
Oh dear.
Director Ridley Scott is an incredible individual, honestly. He was born in 1937. He’s eighty years old! I have to keep checking IMDB to be sure, but it is incredible he can still make as many movies as he does.
If there was ever a cinematic sign of senility… Alien: Covenant is it. While Prometheus was, by its creator’s own words, its own thing, this film wears the Alien brand with pride, yet I have never seen such a bafflingly misfiring, overly-pretentious comedy of errors such as this. Characters with no chemistry, despite being designed as couples, terrible CG monster effects that pale in comparison to the 1970s originator, repetitive action set pieces, cheesy horror tropes and laughably bizarre moments that no one understands.

“Let me do the fingering,” indeed.
Read the Review

2. The Great Wall
You know, with each day that passes, I remember less about The Great Wall. What is most depressing about this film is that its director, Yimou Zhang, was responsible for some of the most beautiful martial arts films in recent years (Hero and House of Flying Daggers) but even more depressing is that this film had both American and Chinese production backing it. This film should have been the new definition of epic. This should have reignited the “epic movie” genre.
No… instead we get some of the most bland and lifeless CG monster design and creation I have ever seen, which overrides some of the more creative design work on the martial arts side of things. With a silly premise such as “The Great Wall of China was built to keep an invading force of extra-dimensional monsters out”, The Great Wall was an exercise in patience that most people failed.
Read the Review

1. The Emoji Movie
Was there anything else?
While watching this abuse to society I knew I had my worst film of the year. If anyone says this doesn’t belong here they are wrong. A vacuous corporate vomit pile of childhood ruining moralities and empty, awful messages. A disgustingly vapid brainwashing experiment to sell apps and degrade social acceptance and self-worth in children disguised as a fun family morality tale. A children’s movie more dangerous than a live grenade in a family home.
“Who needs friends when you can have fans! Fans will always stick by you, so long as you are on the top!” it says with sincerity. “Who likes words, anyway?” it says exuberantly. “Mobile apps are profound!”
This movie is evil. Absolute evil. I am not joking around, it isn’t some haha-funny-bandwagon-jumping-critical-rant-about-The-Emoji-Movie, no. This is a dreadful piece of “creativity” that needs to die.
Read the Review

Rentals 2017

1. Whisky Galore! (1949)
2. Singin’ in the Rain
3. The Hunt for the Wilder People
4. Dunkirk (1958)
5. What we do in the Shadows
6. Nocturnal Animals
7. Patchwork
8. The Mummy (1932)
9. Tomorrowland
10. King Kong (2005)

King Kong (1976)
Ace Attorney
Death Race 2
Death Race 3: Inferno
The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

With the exceptions of The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and The Emoji Movie, I imagine my list will spark some ire with readers. So understand that over 90% of the films I saw this year I don’t critically say are bad movies, in fact from the theatrical releases, I could happy rewatch everything from Atomic Blonde and upwards.

It was not a bad year for films. It was quite pleasant actually, 2017’s only drawback was an abundance of “average” or “mediocre” films that simply didn’t live up to their expectations.
But it did have a lot of good movies!

Looking ahead to 2018 though… I have my doubts.
There’s a lot of redundant movies on the way, like Dwayne Johnson’s Rampage or The Conjuring spin-off The Nun. There’s more questionable entries for genre films, like reboot (and terribly titled) The Predator by director Shane Black, Sony Picture’s Marvel attempt Venom that stars Tom Hardy, James Wan directed Aquaman (can it gain any traction after Justice League?)
In terms of sequels, there are several notable ones, for perhaps the wrong reasons. The all-female Ocean’s 8, surely it won’t make the same mistakes as the earlier sequels or Ghostbusters?…. We also get a Mary Poppins sequel, taking Disney’s Christmas schedule away from Star Wars, and for that franchise we are braced for possibly the most controversial entry yet… Solo: A Star Wars Story, a prequel about a young Han Solo… Pacific Rim Uprising looks pretty terrible without Guillermo Del Toro’s attention to detail, the Tomb Raider “reboot” looks decidedly “meh”, we are getting another Fifty Shades of Grey movie, another Insidious movie (who keeps asking for these?) and a sequel to Mamma Mia… God help us…

But there are some notable films. Spielberg’s Ready Player One will surely be a visual spectacle if nothing else, Deadpool 2, while without original director Tim Miller, should still provide a great time. Hopefully Disney Pixar can wow with Incredibles 2 and Coco, and I personally look forward to Del Toro’s The Shape of Water. I am also itching to see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which hasn’t released in the UK yet.

Oh and a little thing called Avengers: Infinity War. May or may not be a thing people talk about.

I don’t think it will be a very wow year, but there are some notable exceptions we will all go and see!

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