Top Ten Films Of 2019 – Mid-Year Report

Although rather late, I am finally ready to share my usual mid-year report of the Top Ten Films of 2019 so far. As is to be expected, there are still a few films that I am still yet to see but I have tried to get through all the films that I have been looking forward to or the films that reviews have been good for. As usual, I am following the UK release date calendar between January and June. As you are about to see, there are some Awards films included in this list but these have all been released within this time period in the UK.

Honourable Mentions

As always, there are a handful of films that didn’t quite manage to make it into the Top Ten. They all had their specific problems, but the reason why I feel they should be listed is because I found them all to either be entertaining, heartfelt or have some very interesting ideas even if they didn’t quite make it into the Top Ten. As I feel they deserve a mention, I will list them below:

–  Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
–  Ma
–  Birds of Passage
–  Captain Marvel (Review here)
–  Shazam!

Top Ten Films Of 2019 – Mid Year-Report

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10) Polar 

I’m sure for many a controversial choice, Polar got absolutely trashed by critics in its reviews. A Netflix Original, Polar is a revenge thriller in the vein of John Wick and Taken with Mads Mikkelsen playing the action hero with spectacular results. The film is utterly bonkers and what is impressive how it manages to balance sheer grittiness, often at the same time. The decision to cast Matt Lucas as the over-the-top villain is a stroke of genius and the result is a film that I really got on board with.

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9) Can You Ever Forgive Me? 

I generally can’t stand Melissa McCarthy but this is the film for me where she proves herself and she is just magnificent as a down-for-luck author who starts forging letters by famous writers and selling them. Richard E. Grant is also brilliant as her new friend who is battling his own demons. Director Marielle Heller clearly has respect for these characters and deftly balances laugh-out-loud moments with some touching and emotional character development too. The script is really sharp and allows both McCarthy and Grant to play off each other consistently.

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8) Us 

Us is an ambitious sophomore effort from Jordan Peele and although it doesn’t reach the heights of Get Out, this is a cryptic and atmospheric horror film that is full of originality. Peele deals with some heady themes of duality and race and intentionally makes some of the metaphorical meanings in this film ambiguous. The film can be interpreted in a number of ways and further viewings allow this film to be unpacked even more. This is a really interesting film from Peele and even if it doesn’t always succeed, one has to admire the ambition.

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7) John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum 

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a very strong entry in the franchise. Chapter 2 was good but it did feel a little repetitive and lost some of the charm from the first film. This third chapter is a step-up that almost reaches the heights of the first film. The fight choreography is wonderful and particualrly in the first half, it is amazing how much variation in the types of action Stahelski portrays. Keanu Reeves is on top form again and the film furthers the mythology the first two films explored in the criminal world the titular character finds himself tied in. Visually, the film is gorgeous as well, cinematographer Dan Laustsen capturing the neon, visceral quality beautifully. The film ends in a place where further sequels could happen but if the series stopped here, this would be a great trilogy.

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6) Boy Erased 

Boy Erased is the sophomore effort from actor-now-director Joel Edgerton whose debut The Gift was a masterpiece. Boy Erased is a completely different film and is a drama about a teenager who is forced to undergo homosexual conversion therapy program. The cast are all excellent, Lucas Hedges gives a nuanced performance as the conflicted main character and Russell Crowe is a standout as his authoritarian and religious father. Joel Edgerton casts himself as the head of the program and he is a particularly sinister and nasty piece of work. The score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans is fantastic and the film is visually dark and gloomy. Boy Erased is another success from Edgerton and it will be interesting to see where he goes next.

Now into the Top Five…

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5) Triple Frontier 

Triple Frontier is the latest from director J. C. Chandor, who previously made A Most Violent Year which I really liked when it first came out and upon further viewing, I now deem to be a masterpiece as it is a film rich with layers, a terrific narrative and conflicted characters. My expectations were very high for this film, a crime heist thriller with Ben Affleck and Chandor reuniting with Oscar Isaac. This is another excellent film by Chandor and it successfully takes what can be a rather conventional genre into a new direction in the way it explores certain themes and the repercussions the heist has on the group. The score by Disasterpeace is intense and the film looks visually sharp. I was engrossed by the film throughout and Chandor manages to sustain the tension throughout.

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4) Green Book 

Green Book is a thoroughly enjoyable film with some outstanding performances from both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. The script is sharp and provides some fascinating insights into America’s prejudice culture and racism of the time. The interplay and relationships between characters is also excellent, who I really got on board with from the start. It is well-directed by Peter Farrelly and fantastically paced. Green Book provided a controversial win at this year’s Oscars as it ultimately took the coveted Best Picture gong. Whilst I really like it as a film, the controversies surrounding how it represents race and ethnicity are valid. It is unashamedly a white saviour narrative and the film does perpetuate stereotypes. These are questions that come up after watching the film and although it does somewhat tarnish the quality of the film, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t really enjoy Green Book. (Full review here)

Now into the Top Three…

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3) The Mule 

The Mule is a gripping film that ramps up the tension throughout its run time and has a commanding, grizzled performance from Clint Eastwood. Eastwood has played this type of gruff character many times throughout his impressive career but it still works, particlarly when paired with the fascinating story.  The film also teaches some well-intentioned messages and morals and there’s an admirable relationship within Stone’s family that felt authentic and also the relationship between Eastwood and Bradley Cooper’s DEA agent. I also really liked how Eastwood humanized the drug cartel members which results in some memorable characters for Eastwood to interact with. In fact, the script by Nick Schenk, who also wrote Gran Torino which is another excellent Eastwood film, is razor-sharp and efficiently paced. Much like The Old Man and the Gun, another recent release which tackles many of the same themes as this film, The Mule interrogates the existential themes of what makes Eastwood’s character work and why he continues to work for the cartel when he knows what he is doing. (Full review here)

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2) Glass

Glass is an excellent end to this trilogy and mostly represents M. Night Shyamalan at his best – it is pretty much a knock-out. Shyamalan develops these characters extremely well, furthering their character arcs and subverts expectations, for better or worse for some viewers. It is very cine-literate and further deconstructs the generic constructs of the superhero genre and offers some fascinating commentaries on these. As is to be expected, there is a Shyamalan twist and it does undo the good work a little as it isn’t one of his best twists but if you can buy into the film’s central conceit beforehand, it really is excellent. As with a lot of Shyamalan’s filmography, it would be very easy for one to laugh and sneer at this film, as the film walks a fine line. The performances are uniformly excellent, with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson standing out. Technically, Glass succeeds in spades too. The score is outstanding, West Dylan Thordson returning from Split and successfully melding both past themes whilst creating some memorable new ones. DP Mike Gioulakis is also great and there are numerous shots which are just a work of art to look at. I sincerely hope that in a few years time, this film will be reassessed as it’s been really unfairly recieved. (Full review here)

So the best film of the year is…

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1) Dragged Across Concrete 

S. Craig Zahler does it again. His first film, Bone Tomahawk reached very highly in my 2016 list and his second, Brawl In Cell Block 99 took top honours in 2017. Dragged Across Concrete is another wonder from this top director. Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn are both brilliant as two policemen who are suspended after brutally treating a suspect and take matters into their own hands. Tory Kittles is also great as a recently released man who reunites with his family and finds himself intertwined in this case. There are also small roles from Zahler-regulars Fred Melamed, Udo Kier and Don Johnson. The script is once again fantastic and the film deals with the themes of wealth and righteousness very assuredly. Dragged Across Concrete foregoes some of Zahler’s usual ultraviolence and there is nothing here that rivals the violence in his first two films – bear in mind though the film still has an 18 certificate. But instead, this is an equally well-developed narrative that is fascinating throughout and the third act is well-worth the interesting build-up. I think Brawl In Cell Block 99 remains Zahler’s best film but this is another winner and it will take quite a lot for something to top this.

Reflection on 2019 so far…

2019 has been another solid year in terms of film and a definite step-up from 2018’s mid-point which wasn’t a particularly strong selection. Most films so far this year have either been pretty solid or above average but there have been a couple of unexpected stinkers.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters was a real disappointment that after a strong opening turns into a turgid mess in its languorous run time. Hellboy was an outright disaster that undermined Guillermo Del Toro’s brilliant first two films. The Highwaymen was a total bore. But the worst film of the year so far that I have seen is ironically written by S. Craig Zahler who also directed the best film. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich should have been so good on paper and it has a brilliant first scene with Udo Kier. But the rest of the film is just terrible.

Other than these examples, everything else has been at least watchable. I’d be very happy if my end of year list included these films again as they’re all very worthy. Here’s hoping for another strong second half of the year.

What’s Next…?

2019 looks set to continue to be a great year in film and just listing a couple of films that look like they have potential include:

–  Midsommar
–  The Lion King
–  Spider-Man: Far From Home
–  Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood
–  Crawl
–  Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
–  It: Chapter Two
–  Ad Astra
–  Joker
–  Offical Secrets
–  Terminator: Dark Fate
–  Monos
–  Doctor Sleep
–  Sorry We Missed You
–  Ford vs Ferrari
–  Them That Follow
–  Knives Out
–  Motherless Brooklyn
–  Jumanji: The Next Level
–  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

However, it is important to note that this is not a definitive list and these titles are just a few picks scattered across the remainder of the year that have piqued my interest.


Best Films of 2018 (10-1)

This is the second part of my Best Films of 2018 feature detailing my Top Ten films. Click here to read numbers 20 to 11 and the Honourable Mentions.

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten films of 2018:

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10) All The Money In The World 

All The Money In The World is overall, immensely enjoyable and a fun potboiler. It is frequently gripping and is propped up by the brilliant cast. Scott has had a varied career, Alien and Blade Runner at his peak, Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood at his worst and then, many of his films fall in between with ambitious ideas but not necessarily great execution a la Alien: Covenant. All The Money In The World ultimately proves to be one of Scott’s best films and proves that with the right script and the right cast, he can still churn out greatness. Last-minute replacement Christopher Plummer is excellent as J. Paul Getty, as is Michelle Williams as her kidnapped son’s mother who just wants him back but cannot afford the hefty ransom. Although the film will be remembered for its behind-the-scenes shake-up with Kevin Spacey, the film is fantastic in its own right and should be viewed as such. (Full review here)

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9) Last Flag Flying 

Last Flag Flying really knocked me back. Boyhood director Richard Linklater has crafted a bittersweet and warm tale of friendship and coming to terms with loss that is very mature. Yet, the film also has bite in its conflicted commentary of military service and patriotism. The performances by the entirety of the cast are superb and of course, the trio of Steve Carrell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne have such good chemistry together. All of the characters are so well developed that when the film finished, I could have easily watched another two hours of these characters interacting with each other. They are all morally flawed individuals, who have all made mistakes in the past but they all have good intentions. It’s a brilliant film and one that I highly recommend seeking. (Full review here)

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8) In The Fade 

In The Fade is a return to form for German-Turkish director Fatih Ahkin and is a moody yet contemplative insight into the degradation of Diane Kruger’s main character following the death of her husband and her son in a neo-Nazi terrorist attack. The film transitions seamlessly from courtroom drama to a meditative thriller and the whole experience is edge-of-your-seat. The score by Queens of the Stone Age frontman Joshua Homme is excellent and compliments the film beautifully. In The Fade is a hard but necessary and rewarding watch.

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7) Widows

Widows is an intelligent, taut and well-constructed piece that not only succeeds as a basic heist film, but it has a lot to say on the themes of gender and politics. The cast are uniformly brilliant, Viola Davis leading the pack with ease and swagger. The standouts are Michelle Rodriguez, who plays against type as one of the widows and Daniel Kaluuya as Jamal’s menacing mob enforcer brother, also playing against type as his past characters have had a sense of morality. McQueen delivers on the more basic elements of the genre in spades, the heists gripping and tension-filled and the action sequences equally satisfying, given that his previous filmography hasn’t featured this. Coupled with American Animals (13th in this ranking), the heist genre has had a strong year. (My original review here)

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6) Lady Bird 

Lady Bird, the directorial debut of actress / writer Greta Gerwig, is a beautifully humane coming-of-age story of a teenager whose strong personality conflicts with her mothers equally volatile temper. It makes for a fascinating character study, containing plenty of scenarios and vignettes that run true to many home experiences of growing up. Gerwig’s script is particularly polished, mostly avoiding cliche, which keeps the story fresh and makes for a deeply personal insight into the film’s setting of Sacramento, where Gerwig herself grew up. (Full review here)

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5) Phantom Thread 

Phantom Thread represents yet another high for director Paul Thomas Anderson and is a fantastic note for Daniel Day-Lewis to go out on, should this in fact be his swansong. It makes for a masterful character study and a real treat for cinephiles. Two thirds of this film is pretty much note-perfect but I’m still a little unsure of the direction the film takes in the third act but I am definitely more on-board with it than on first watch. (Full review here)

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4) The Shape of Water 

The Shape of Water is a beautiful triumph from Guillermo Del Toro, who once again successfully interweaves and juxtaposes the supernatural to reality. Del Toro has clearly been inspired from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, a film that he wanted to remake from a female perspective but wasn’t allowed. As well as this inspiration, Del Toro’s film is a love letter to early cinema which it borrows in some of its tropes and plot points, infused with his darker work on Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. I was hooked by the film throughout and it has a lot hidden up its sleeve and like his other films, it earns its adult rating with its sex and grotesque violence. (Full review here)

Now into the top #3…

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3) Coco 

I really struggled with 2nd and 3rd, but Coco just lost out on 2nd place. Coco is yet another triumph for the animation giant, Pixar, and ranks as one of their strongest works. It is moving, life-affirming and should manage to appeal to both adults and children alike. It also goes without saying that the attention to detail in the animation is second to none, Pixar continuing to elevate animation to photorealist levels. Combined with the excellent narrative and emotional journey this film takes us through, Coco is a film fully deserving of its all praise. (Full review here)

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2) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri proves Martin McDonagh’s writing talent again and then some. McDonagh has such a great ear for dialogue in this film and there are so many wonderful exchanges of dialogue between characters. It is frequently comic, always entertaining and what I particularly love about this film, is it takes many unexpected diversions in its narrative. The film leads you to believe a certain plot point will go in one direction, but McDonagh in multiple instances, subverts expectations and this makes this film all the more fresh. There are many moments where I was genuinely in awe and shock. It is a biting drama about murder, investigating and how people have multiple sides to their personality. (Full review here)

So the best film of the year is…

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1) Sicario 2: Soldado 

There really was no competition. Sicario 2: Soldado is a masterful sequel and whilst its behind-the-camera talent may not, on paper, be quite as strong as its original, as a film I found it to be better paced and maintains its sharp focus throughout. The first film made a jarring shift in its final third, which although was satisfying, did make the film lose focus a little as the rest of the film follows Emily Blunt’s FBI agent constantly. This is an even more grimy and black picture where characters are morally and ethically bankrupt and there are multiple scenes which are very uncomfortable to watch, in particular an early scene that sets the backdrop for the rest of the film with terrorists blowing up a supermarket. Sollima’s sequel has a rousing commentary on American politics with a Trumpian-like President and the lengths and processes people go to to cross the border. The film gets better on further rewatches and nothing has come close to unseating this film from first position. (Full review here)


So there we go, these films were in my opinion, the best of 2018. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Best Films of 2018 (20-11)

Now that we are in full swing of the 2019 films, it’s time to reflect on 2018 and here I share my Top 20 Films of the year. I know that I am very late in the game but there were quite a few films I didn’t get to watch in time and felt that it would be a disservice to generate a list that wasn’t truly reflective of the year. This was generally quite a weak year for film, with many of the big hitters disappointing. A lot of the films that I expected to be great were disappointing and a number of films that were unheard of or those that I initially had little faith in were excellent. 

Although my Mid-Year Report only included ten films, this list will include 20 films with some honourable mentions. The rank order has changed a little from the Mid-Year Report on account of rewatching a lot of these films multiple times and some I have found to be more rewatchable than others. So just because a film ranked higher earlier on last year doesn’t necessarily mean this will be the case now – that’s just the nature of the art of film I guess. 

Here I rank numbers 20 to 11. The Top Ten will be detailed in a separate post.

Note

I am following the UK release date calendar from January 1st to December 31st hence why a lot of the Awards films do not feature here and why there are some from what may seem like last year. 

Honourable Mentions

Here are my honourable mentions, films that didn’t quite make it into the Top Twenty but I feel that they should still deserve a mention. Please note I have listed them in alphabetical order – this is not a ranking of them. 

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Apostle

Gareth Evans’ first film after The Raid films is a mature and elegant period horror that is the director at his best. Dan Stevens is very strong as the main character, Thomas Richardson, who sets out to a remote Welsh island to rescue his sister. With clear influences from The Wicker Man, Evans melds the folklore and impending sense of dread with more period detailling and gore aplomb. A shame that this film wasn’t really given the recognition it was due, I think this was mainly down to its unceremenious dumping on Netflix.

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BlacKkKlansman

When the main narrative takes centre stage after a self-indulgent opening, BlacKkKlansman is thoroughly enjoyable film in Spike Lee’s filmography. It spins a gripping yarn out of a fascinating story and is bolstered by being technically proficient and having some great performances. Lee interrogates many different themes, chiefly duality between the film’s events and characters and he manages to balance some laugh-out-loud humour with its main message. All of the film’s characters are well-developed, even the KKK members have fleshed story arcs and you do begin to sympathise not with their beliefs, but with their personalities a little which is to be commended. BlacKkKlansman is definitely worth seeking out and most audiences should have a blast with it, as well as discovering and questioning the ways in which America’s society works, but it’s far from perfect. (My original review here)

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The Old Man and the Gun

If The Old Man And The Gun is indeed Robert Redford’s swansong, it will be a very good note to go out on. This is an entertaining heist film based on a true story that poses some interesting questions yet deconstructs the generic constructs of the hist film with Redford’s portrayal of an older-aged bank robber with manners, Forrest Tucker, who is oddly charming, feel-good and unthreatening. Director David Lowery’s film is a mature and oddly elegiac study into the psyche of the criminal, as he interrogates existential themes of a man who cannot not commit criminal acts as it makes him tick. This is a fine note for Redford to retire on. (My original review here)

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Papillon

A total surprise that what seemed like an unnecessary remake turned out to be quite this good. Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek are excellent as the lead two roles and although this remake is quite faithful to the 1973 original, this film packs emotion and thrills in spades. Yorick van Wageningen fares particularly well as the nasty Warden and is clearly having a good time. I was engrossed in the film from start to finish and this is a remake that justifies its existence.

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22 July 

Another Netflix Original, 22 July is possibly one of Paul Greengrass’ best films in a long time. This is a deep delving into the Norweigan attack and the attack that Greengrass recreates is mesmerising and haunting – certainly one of the best extended sequences of the year. Anders Danielsen Lie is terrific as the twisted terrorist who feels chillingly close to the real Anders Breivik. The film does lose a bit of steam in its final act but when it’s at its best, it is mesmerising.

Now onto the Top Twenty:

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20) Ant-Man and the Wasp 

Ant-Man and the Wasp is just as good as the original and like it, it is full of heart and character-driven moments. Director Peyton Reed further develops the innovative action sequences through the creative variations in size and spectacle in the first film, a car chase fares particularly well. Reed definitely seems to feel a lot more confident this time around, particularly as his direction doesn’t bear the spectre of Edgar Wright, who famously departed the first film. This is aided again by confident performances from the cast all around and the additions of new cast members make the film feel fresh, Laurence Fishburne and Randall Park faring the best. (My original review here)

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19) Unsane

The ever-dependable Steven Soderbergh returns with this psychological thriller shot on an iPhone. Unsane stars Claire Foy as a woman who is confined to a mental institution where her alleged stalker reappears. The film revolves around the age-old idea of who is in the right and Soderbergh once again, creates a twisty narrative that had me enthralled pretty much throughout. Foy is excellent and there are good performances by Joshua Leonard and Jay Pharoah here too. The film dips a little in its climax where the narratives becomes increasingly implausible but Soderbergh does a very good job with the vast majority of the film for it to sneak in.

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18) Bohemian Rhapsody 

Bohemian Rhapsody is a well-crafted biopic that I was emotionally invested in for much of its running time. Rami Malek’s performance as Mercury is sensational and he completely inhabits the role, through his appearance, speech and mannerisms, capturing the late rock icon to a tee. The performances across the board are uniformly strong and Mike Myers is particularly good in a small role as a slimy EMI executive. Visually, the film looks good, for the most part Bryan Singer-regular, Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography is sound and the hair/make up and costuming are convincing, with the exception of Malek’s fake buckteeth at the beginning of the film which are a bit jarring. The film is sensible in its scope in terms of the events it goes through in the space of the 134 minute running time and achieves all the major beats in the band’s history, ending in Queen’s Live Aid performance and Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis. As a Queen fan, I’d have been more than happy to watch more if the film was longer and went into further detail but one must realise this film has to appeal on all levels. Bohemian Rhapsody is a rather sanitised affair though. Considering this is a film about a band that took risks, the film could have interrogated some of the events and the band members a little more perceptively. Unlike many reviews, I found the major mis-step with the film to be the ending Live Aid concert, which goes on for a good 15/20 minutes. Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography in this sequence is rather too flashy for its own good, with too many aerial shots and it looks too digitised and the whole sequence almost borders on being a bit naff and karaoke-like. Flaws aside, I was surprised by how emotionally invested I ended up being in Bohemian Rhapsody and it does overall, more than manage to capture the overarching essence of the band and succeeds in how they interact, even if the film does end up playing things safe. (My original review here)

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17) Leave No Trace 

Leave No Trace is the long-awaited follow-up from director Debra Granik who last made Winter’s Bone in 2010, the film that firmly established Jennifer Lawrence into the film industry. This is a mature and emotional film that is about a PTSD-ridden father and his young daughter who are trying to fit into society. Both Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie are sensational and they are thrown into some really quite overwhelming situations as the film progresses. This is an affecting drama that proves Winter’s Bone was not a one-off.

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16) First Reformed 

First Reformed is a haunting, minor-key triumph from Paul Schrader in a return to form with Ethan Hawke at the top of his game as a Reverend having a crisis of faith. Schrader’s film explores all of his typical weighty themes of guilt, obsession and extremeism in an slow but intense fashion as the film progresses. Amanda Seyfried is excellent as a young widow whose radical environmentalist husband has cast a dark shadow on her life. First Reformed is an excellent character study and I was enthralled by it.

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15) Overlord

Overlord is an effective and highly entertaining genre hybrid that is a total blast from start to finish. The premise is quite simple – set in the run-up to D-Day, we follow a group of American soldiers who have been tasked to destroy a German radio tower in an old church. However, this task is made rather difficult when their plane is shot down, in spectacular fashion, and they need to evade the Nazi’s whilst completing their mission. This is only director Julius Avery’s second feature but he clearly has the skills of a more seasoned director in how well this film is constructed. With the support of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot company producing, many thought this film would be another Cloverfield sequel, but it’s certainly not and it’s all the better for it in how standalone it is. There are multiple sequences here that are outstanding – the first scene in the film with the shooting down of the plane is claustrophobic and harrowing, starting the film immediately on a high. An extended sequence in an attic is masterfully paced too, as are some action sequences in the back-end of the film, but to reveal more would be to delve into spoiler territory. The violence in this film is particularly nasty at times, fully earning the film’s 18 certificate – this is not a film for the squeamish. Surprisingly, Overlord is one of the rare genre hybrid films that manages to be fully successful on that promise, whereas lots of films stumble on one of the aspects. (My original review here)

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14) Halloween 

Halloween (2018) is an excellent entry in the franchise and it is clear that the filmmakers have understood what made the original work. It is a thoroughly entertaining and mostly satisfying sequel that is very much in the vein of Carpenter’s original. The central idea of exploring the psychology of Laurie and how the events of the original affected her is a genius move and there are some excellent interactions between her and her family that are authentic to reality. Jamie Lee Curtis is in brilliant form in the role that made her a star and Andi Matichak as her grandaughter puts in a barnstorming performance and is surely a rising talent. Judy Greer, who is pretty much always the weak point of any film she’s in, is not bad here as Laurie’s daughter, which is an improvement from normal. This is the Halloween film that actually delivers on the promise of a true sequel to the original.  (My original review here)

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13) American Animals 

I watched Brimstone pretty close to compiling this list, so there is every possibility its position may move in the future. Bart Layton’s sophomore effort after The Imposter is a fascinating crime drama that interweaves with a docu-drama edge as we hear the real characters perspectives regularly throughout the film. The film is extremely intense in parts and is a fascinating character study on what are conflicted but ultimately pathetic characters. The score by Anne Nitikin is outstanding and the cinematography is visually sharp. American Animals is gripping from start to finish and is one of the freshest heist films in recent memory.

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12) Hereditary

Hereditary is one of the most interesting films of the year in that I’m still conflicted over aspects of this film. The first time I saw it, I loved the hypnotic first half which is just perfect but the second half then goes wildly into cliched horror territory. Whilst I still believe this to be the case to a degree, on further viewings, there are some clear hidden meanings and metaphors that somewhat justify the film’s second half. Despite my issues, this is still a terrific debut from director Ari Aster who is sure to have an interesting career ahead. (My original review here)

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11) Hostiles 

Hostiles is another winner from director Scott Cooper – a visceral, downbeat and often gut-wrenching watch. There are many scenarios and moments in the film that are emotionally sapping and Cooper puts these characters through hell. The three leads – Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi, are all on top form, all giving career-defining performances. The cinematography by Cooper-regular, Masanobu Takayanagi is jaw-dropping – there are frequent moments of awe in terms of how Takayanagi shoots the landscapes and he really makes the most of the locations, which refer visually to the Western classic, The Searchers. Max Richter’s score is also expectedly hypnotic – the score fits in so well with the film and is endlessly atmospheric, groaning and distorting with the sand flying around in the desert. The film isn’t perfect though – it does have some structural problems and some of the characters are underwritten. But for all the things Cooper gets right, Hostiles earns its spot. (My original review here)


So there we go, numbers 20 down to 11. Stay tuned for the Top Ten in a separate post…


What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Ranking The Comic-Book Films of 2018

The comic-book genre is continuing to reach new heights and 2018 brought 7 new films (6 live-action, 1 animation) to the table. This continues the trend of an increase in this type of film each year. As a reflection on last year, in this post, I will rank these films in order of my personal preference.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe reached giddy heights this year, particularly with Avengers: Infinity War acting as a culmination of all the films thus far and a storyline that will carry on in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. Many would argue that Black Panther was the studio’s crowning achievement with it being the first Marvel film to earn lots of Awards nominations and even be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award through its progressive representations of diversity. Whilst Ant-Man and the Wasp didn’t receive as rapturous a response as Marvel’s two other efforts, many felt it to be an enjoyable pallette cleanser ahead of Endgame.

DC mainly sat the year out but struck big with Aquaman in December which recieved positive reviews, course-correcting their shaky track record so far. It also made a splash at the box office earning over $1 billion dollars along with Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.

Whilst three films were meant to be released in the X-Men film series last year, only Deadpool 2 made it into release which was another success for the studio. Now that the merger between Fox and Disney is underway, the future of this series is unclear but fingers crossed Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants get a release this year.

Finally, Sony had an interesting year with the genre. Venom, a Spider-Man spin-off focussing on the famous nemesis released and there was a big divide in response, critics mixed and audiences generally liking it. It also surprisingly did well at the box office which has resulted in a sequel being greenlit. Lastly, Sony also released the animated Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse in December which opened to surprisingly overwhelmingly positive reviews despite the marketing of the film making it look rather lacklustre.

Overall, I would say this was a disappointing year for the genre in that nothing really excelled and this has been quite a hard list to rank as many of them are very similar in quality. Let’s get started!

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7) Venom

Venom is a strange concoction. I can’t say I liked the film much and for a lot of it, it is embarassing to sit through. The script is so obvious and cliched and story beats so haphazardly and embarassingly put together. Brock’s girlfriend, Anne Weying, played by the always brilliant Michelle Williams, is a particular sore point as Brock betrays her for the sake of journalism very early in the film and then has the cheek to hang around her trying to win her back. At the beginning, Tom Hardy’s performance is cringeworthy and his character is an annoying loser and an embarassment of a low point of an entry into the career of journalism. Furthermore, the action sequences are ostensibly terrible, resorting to shaky-cam and there is a complete lack of any choreography or movement, making them also incoherent despite them being conventional.

Bizarrely, when Venom enters the film, the film begins to unknowingly start to create an interesting dynamic between the symbiote and Brock, with some rather juvenile but interesting humour. Hardy does better in these scenes and the back-and-forth fares well.Also, there is a genius post-credit scene that hints at a better sequel. With this and Tom Hardy finally coming to terms with his character towards the end of the film, I would strangely look forward to a sequel. (My full review here)

There is now a big step in quality…

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6) Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse 

I’m not sure how to position this film between 5th and 6th place and a rewatch may bump this up but for the moment, I have it 6th. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an energetic and entertaining film that is heartfelt and provides a refreshing spin on the popular superhero. It packs some good twists in its storyline and should be a delight for comic-book fans through some more obscure and metatextual references. It finds big success in playing with comic-book convention and it manages to not fall into certain pitfalls of the genre. But it’s not quite as good as it could have been as it falls into typical problems of a lacklustre villain who is underdeveloped and underused and the customary final act fight is a little tiring. (My full review here)

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5) Aquaman

Aquaman just about works as a film and it is a largely entertaining underwater extravaganza that is consistently visually stunning. I was frequently in awe witnessing the underwater world Wan created and there are many shots in the film that are wonderfully crafted. Even when the characters are on land, the visuals are excellent and a chase scene in a Sicilian setting is choreographed particularly well. As for Aquaman himself, James Wan certainly embraces the more corny aspects of the character but manages to inject a lot of heart and development to make him more likeable which is a relief. This cheesy tone Wan goes for isn’t entirely successful and the film is stuffed with formulaic dialogue and plot points. It’s also overlong at a whopping 143 minutes and although not to as bad an extent as other films, it does succumb to a CGI-fest in its final act. (My full review here)

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4) Black Panther

Black Panther is a mixed bag and has some severe structural problems that really hinder the film. Coogler fails to develop what are some really interesting ideas and the action sequences are surprisingly poor. That said, it is mostly entertaining and the first half is quite strong. On the strength of some of the characters and with a firmer grasp of the material, there is potential for the future. At least Coogler has created a film that is very standalone in the canon. Black Panther isn’t concerned with setting up future sequels or constantly referencing other films, which is a good thing as there have been some installments that have fallen down this rabbit hole. That said, I really don’t understand why this film is being heralded as one of the best superhero films of all time and the Oscar nominations honestly bewilder me. (My full review here)

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3) Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War begins very strongly with some bold choices in its narrative. The Russo Brothers manage to juggle all the character arcs well and manage to craft a coherent, unified narrative that doesn’t feel overstuffed. What I particularly liked about this film given its flaws was how the Russo’s have admirably attempted to adapt the character of Thanos to the big screen, with Josh Brolin putting in a scene-stealing performance. The idea they had that this film was going to be from his perspective is an interesting one and this would have really worked well and made the film more fresh if they had actually gone in this direction and focussed on him more. There are a number of scenes from his perspective where his motivations are made clear and Brolin’s villain is one that can be empathised with. Thanos has to make a number of key decisions, some that bring a lot of emotional pain and this is dealt with really well.

Unfortunately, the film runs into problems as it then starts to involve too many characters which impact the film tonally and they then makes a cheap, poor choice in its conclusion which is really frustrating. There is always the risk in these kind of tentpole films to lose focus when there is a whole roster of characters to follow and whilst each superhero does get their moment to shine, some inevitably do get more screentime than others. That said, the Russo’s clearly have tried their best and the choices they have made are generally sound in terms of characterisations. (My full review here)

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2) Deadpool 2 

Deadpool 2 was a pleasant surprise given how I wasn’t a big fan of the first film. The film manages to successfully expand on its predecessor and wind up being a far superior film. The jokes land far more consistently than the first film and it’s a far more engaging narrative which successfully subverts the genre and develops the now familiar character. The first film failed to do this with its obvious jokes and its formulaic narrative. Ryan Reynolds once again, completely inhabits the titular role. Director David Leitch slickly directs this sequel (after Tim Miller exited) and as expected, the action sequences are creative and visually pleasing. The laughs fly in frequently to the point where I couldn’t stop laughing and missed the next one. This is definitely a film which requires repeat viewings to fully appreciate this film. The film isn’t perfect and its chief problem is its rather shambolic construction but the laughs make up for it and it all just about comes together in the end. (My full review here)

And the best comic-book film of 2018 is…

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1) Ant-Man and the Wasp 

This is probably a controversial decision but for me, Ant-Man and the Wasp was an absolute blast from start to finish. It is just as good as the original and like it, it is full of heart and character-driven moments. Director Peyton Reed further develops the innovative action sequences through the creative variations in size and spectacle in the first film, a car chase fares particularly well. This is aided again by confident performances from the cast all around and the additions of new cast members make the film feel fresh. Laurence Fishburne and Randall Park fare the best out of the new additions, Fishburne fitting perfectly into this world and Park is frequently hilarious as a bumbling, slightly useless agent. Like Black Panther, this film feels refreshingly standalone within the Marvel canon and despite my frustrations at Infinity War‘s ending, it does tie in well to it. It’s not particularly deep like my winner of last year, Logan, was, nor does it reinvent the genre but this is my top pick purely based on how enjoyable it is. I can’t wait for another sequel if they’re this good. (My full review here)



What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister


 

Top Ten Films Of 2018 – Mid-Year Report

Although July, the half-way point of the year has already arrived and it is now August, I am finally ready to share my Top Ten Films of 2018 so far at the half-way point. As is to be expected, there are still a few films that I am still yet to see but I have tried to get through all the films that I have been looking forward to or the films that reviews have been good for. As usual, I am following the UK release date calendar between January and June. As you are about to see, there are some Awards films included in this list but these have all been released within this time period in the UK.

Honourable Mentions

As always, there are a handful of films that didn’t quite manage to make it into the Top Ten. They all had their specific problems, but the reason why I feel they should be listed is becuase I found them all to either be entertaining, heartfelt or have some very interesting ideas even if they didn’t quite make it into the Top Ten. As I feel they deserve a mention, I will list them below:

– Sweet Country
– Deadpool 2
– Hereditary (that first half is too good)

Top Ten Films Of 2018 – Mid Year-Report

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10) Unsane

The ever-dependable Steven Soderbergh returns with this psychological thriller shot on an iPhone. Unsane stars Claire Foy as a woman who is confined to a mental institution where her alleged stalker reappears. The film revolves around the age-old idea of who is in the right and Soderbergh once again, creates a twisty narrative that had me enthralled pretty much throughout. Foy is excellent and there are good performances by Joshua Leonard and Jay Pharoah here too. The film dips a little in its climax where the narratives becomes increasingly implausible but Soderbergh does a very good job with the vast majority of the film for it to sneak in to no. 10.

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9) Hostiles 

Hostiles is another winner from director Scott Cooper who continues to prove why is he is one of Hollywood’s most exciting directors working today. This Western is a visceral, downbeat and often gut-wrenching watch. There are many scenarios and moments in the film that are emotionally sapping and Cooper puts these characters through hell. Cooper again, manages to get the best out of his actors. The three leads – Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi, are all on top form, all giving career-defining performances. The film follows Christian Bale’s Captain Blocker who is forced to escort a cancer-ridden Cheyenne tribe chief (Wes Studi) back toh is homeland, an individual who Blocker bears a grudge with. Bale’s Captain is gruff, sombre and constantly thrown arduous challenges both mentally and physically. Rosamund Pike’s character brutally loses all of her family in the very memorable first scene of the film and is psychologically damaged and tormented. There is one moment in particular when she first lays eyes on Studi’s tribe which reminds her of past horrors which the actress conveys brilliantly. It is testament to Wes Studi’s performance as Yellow Halk how much of an impression he is able to make – the character is underwritten but Studi is really able to do a lot with the role and manages to convey the bittersweet juxtaposition of his family beside him and the cancer eating away at him. Studi’s performance allows one to imagine how ruthless this war chief may have been back in his day but now is a more mellow, world-weary individual who simply wants to return to his homeland with his family. Technically, the film is excellent with a searing score by Max Richter and it is beautifully shot by Cooper regular Masanobu Takayanagi. On repeated rewatches, I always find something new in this film and despite it being a little muddled in its narrative structure, it is an excellent film. (Full review here)

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8) All The Money In The World 

All The Money In The World is overall, immensely enjoyable and a fun potboiler. It is frequently gripping and is propped up by the brilliant cast. Scott has had a varied career, Alien and Blade Runner at his peak, Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood at his worst and then, many of his films fall in between with ambitious ideas but not necessarily great execution a la Alien: Covenant. All The Money In The World ultimately proves to be one of Scott’s best films and proves that with the right script and the right cast, he can still churn out greatness. Last-minute replacement Christopher Plummer is excellent as J. Paul Getty, as is Michelle Williams as her kidnapped son’s mother who just wants him back but cannot afford the hefty ransom. Although the film will be remembered for its behind-the-scenes shake-up with Kevin Spacey, the film is fantastic in its own right and should be viewed as such. (Full review here)

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7) Last Flag Flying 

Last Flag Flying really knocked me back. Boyhood director Richard Linklater has crafted a bittersweet and warm tale of friendship and coming to terms with loss that is very mature. Yet, the film also has bite in its conflicted commentary of military service and patriotism. The performances by the entirety of the cast are superb and of course, the trio of Steve Carrell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne have such good chemistry together. All of the characters are so well developed that when the film finished, I could have easily watched another two hours of these characters interacting with each other. They are all morally flawed individuals, who have all made mistakes in the past but they all have good intentions. It’s a brilliant film and one that I highly recommend seeking. (Full review here)

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6) Lady Bird 

Lady Bird, the directorial debut of actress / writer Greta Gerwig, is a beautifully humane coming-of-age story of a teenager whose strong personality conflicts with her mothers equally volatile temper. It makes for a fascinating character study, containing plenty of scenarios and vignettes that run true to many home experiences of growing up. Gerwig’s script is particularly polished, mostly avoiding cliche, which keeps the story fresh and makes for a deeply personal insight into the film’s setting of Sacramento, where Gerwig herself grew up. (Full review here)

Now into the Top Five…

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5) Phantom Thread 

Phantom Thread represents yet another high for director Paul Thomas Anderson and is a fantastic note for Daniel Day-Lewis to go out on, should this in fact be his swansong. It makes for a masterful character study and a real treat for cinephiles. Two thirds of this film is pretty much note-perfect but I’m just a little unsure on the direction the film heads in its final act, as it doesn’t quite conform to the neatness the first two have. I suspect on further rewatching, this film will continue to unpack itself and there is a lot more to gain from it. (Full review here)

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4) The Shape Of Water 

The Shape of Water is a beautiful triumph from Guillermo Del Toro, who once again successfully interweaves and juxtaposes the supernatural to reality. Del Toro has clearly been inspired from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, a film that he wanted to remake from a female perspective but wasn’t allowed. As well as this inspiration, Del Toro’s film is a love letter to early cinema which it borrows in some of its tropes and plot points, infused with his darker work on Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. I was hooked by the film throughout and it has a lot hidden up its sleeve and like his other films, it earns its adult rating with its sex and grotesque violence. (Full review here)

Now into the Top Three…

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3) Coco

Coco is yet another triumph for the animation giant, Pixar, and ranks as one of their strongest works. It is moving, life-affirming and should manage to appeal to both adults and children alike. It also goes without saying that the attention to detail in the animation is second to none, Pixar continuing to elevate animation to photorealist levels. Combined with the excellent narrative and emotional journey this film takes us through, Coco is a film fully deserving of its all praise. (Full review here)

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2) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri proves Martin McDonagh’s writing talent again and then some. McDonagh has such a great ear for dialogue in this film and there are so many wonderful exchanges of dialogue between characters. It is frequently comic, always entertaining and what I particularly love about this film, is it takes many unexpected diversions in its narrative. The film leads you to believe a certain plot point will go in one direction, but McDonagh in multiple instances, subverts expectations and this makes this film all the more fresh. There are many moments where I was genuinely in awe and shock. It is a biting drama about murder, investigating and how people have multiple sides to their personality. (Full review here)

So the best film of the year is…

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1) Sicario 2: Soldado 

Sicario 2: Soldado is a masterful sequel and whilst its behind-the-camera talent may not, on paper, be quite as strong as its original, as a film I found it to be better paced and maintains its sharp focus throughout. The first film made a jarring shift in its final third, which although was satisfying, did make the film lose focus a little as the rest of the film follows Emily Blunt’s FBI agent constantly. This is an even more grimy and black picture where characters are morally and ethically bankrupt and there are multiple scenes which are very uncomfortable to watch, in particular an early scene that sets the backdrop for the rest of the film with terrorists blowing up a supermarket. Sollima’s sequel has a rousing commentary on American politics with a Trumpian-like President and the lengths and processes people go to to cross the border. (Full review here)

Reflection on 2018 in Film so far…

2018 has been a solid year in terms of film – there is not one downright terrible film that I have come across yet but that said, there have been more disappointments than successes. I would say this mid-year Top Ten is probably the weakest batch of films in the last couple of years and this is portrayed in the sheer lack of honourable mentions as I’d feel uneasy bestowing this honour to films that haven’t delivered. Here’s hoping the second half of the year picks up.

What’s Next…?

2018 looks set to continue to be a great year in film and just listing a couple of films that look like they have potential include:

– Incredibles 2
– Ant-Man and the Wasp
– The Meg
– Christopher Robin
– BlacKkKlansman
– Slender Man
– Upgrade
– The Nun
– American Animals
– The Predator
– The Little Stranger
– Venom
– Johnny English Strikes Again
– First Man
– Mandy
– Halloween
– Bohemian Rhapsody
– Peterloo
– Widows
– Overlord
– The Girl In The Spider’s Web
– Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
– Ralph Breaks The Internet
– Aquaman
– Papillon
– Holmes and Watson
– Dragged Across Concrete
– The House That Jack Built

However, it is important to note that this is not a definitive list and these titles are just a few picks scattered across the remainder of the year that have piqued my interest.


Most Disappointing Films of 2017

Whilst 2017 brought us some fantastic films,  it is fair to say that 2016 had some disappointments as well. Luckily, not as many 20 which is what I have in my favourites list, but listed below are 5 films that really disappointed me. I must note before that I actively try and avoid films that I just know are going to be horrendous (a real film critic has to sit through everything though which is what in an ideal world, I want to be) so this list might not be truly representative. One must also realise the difference between a film that is disappointing and a film that is truly bad. I could probably find 20 films that disappointed me last year but this is not the purpose of this post. Compared to 2015 and 2016, I have to say that this list is a lot more mild. Although the worst film on this list is a bad film, if I were listing these films in tandem with last year, I think the Top 4 are probably worse from last year than the worst film this year. Hence, why this isn’t a ‘worst of’ list like I have done in the past, more of what films I found most disappointing. 

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5) La La Land 

It is with heavy heart that I found La La Land to be an incredibly disappointing film that is totally undeserving of all the praise it is getting. This film especially hurts me even more considering director Damien Chazelle’s previous film, Whiplash, was my favourite film of 2015. I really wanted to like this film and I kept trying to make excuses for Chazelle but there’s just too many missteps to ignore and the film feels very disjointed in its pacing. The performances are admirable and Gosling and Stone carry the film well but by no means are they awards-worthy and the script in particular, which is normally Chazelle’s main attribute is dismally lacking and doesn’t have any direction to it. Surprisingly, it got nominated for an Oscar in this category. The whole plot of the film is by extension, confused and the film doesn’t know what it wants to be and the many elements of the narrative just aggressively don’t come together. Did I miss something in this film? Did I watch a different film to everyone else, not the one that has made such an impression on both critics and audiences and has attracted sterling reviews? (My original review here

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4) The Lego Batman Movie 

l is a film of two halves – its first act is particularly impressive and constantly cracks jokes left, right and centre and is surprisingly very cine-literate. The opening sequence which is a fight between Batman and the Joker is particularly well-crafted and the gags keep coming at a rapid pace and there is so much to absorb on-screen, little references to the character and previous incarnations scattered across the screen – it is pure eye-candy. The voice cast are generally pretty strong and Lorne Balfe’s score is generally competent and there are a couple of memorable, dark and brooding themes that elevate the narrative, particularly in the opening fight sequence. Unfortunately, the film completely violently tanks in its second half. The major factor as to why this film falls off the rails in its second act is due to its story which is misjudged.  Rather than go down a route where it thoroughly explores Batman and his supporting characters, director Chris McKay chooses to shake things up and try and mix in popular culture with this iconic superhero. This does not work at all and as the film progressed, really started to get on my nerves. By the time the credits started to roll and I was being lectured on the subject of working together, I was seething. This is an insult to fans of the character and completely undoes all the good work the film managed to do in its first act. Part of why the first act works really well is because the filmmakers are clearly respectful of the source material but all that respect goes out of the window in the second half and this very much becomes a film centered for children. (My original review here)

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3) Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge 

Although Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge represents a slight improvement over On Stranger Tides and a lot better than At World’s End,  it still feels unnecessay, insubstantial and a cash grab to try and reinvigorate the series. What’s even more disappointing is how little of a director’s stamp there is here by Rønning and Sandberg – the film feels as if it was made by studio executives which is such a shame considering how talented this duo are. Other than for a short while in the middle section, the film completely lacks any energy and it feels far longer than the 129 minute run time than it is. It’s not a terrible film and it does have a couple of redeeming features to it but this is definitely a film to skip if you’ve got a choice this Summer. Of course, the visuals here are excellent but the action sequences don’t really have any flow to them and it’s hard to care for any of the characters. (My original review here)

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2) Mindhorn 

A late entry into this list that I watched close to writing this, Mindhorn is a comedy that has no humour. I didn’t laugh once in this, instead I winced and cringed at most of the juvenile attempts to raise a chuckle. The story is a good concept, but it feels overly familiar to other films of this genre and I’m genuinely surprised at the extremely positive reception this film recieved. What did I miss? Anyway, for now, along with La La Land and The Lego Batman Movie, it is my job to put these films in their place once and for all.

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1) The Mummy

The only really bad film on this list and a film that I was rightly worried for ever since it was greenlit, The Mummy is an abomination. Director Alex Kurtzman is a poor match for the material and Tom Cruise is also woeful in a role he should never have been cast in. The film is not scary in the slightest and any attempts the film makes at injecting humour are aggressively unfunny. Whilst Dracula Untold was forcefully pushed aside and despite that also being a disappointing film, it is a far more enriching experience than this film is. It doesn’t quite achieve a 1-star rating as there are a couple of nicely choreographed action sequences and the film does have a few hints of momentum in its mid-section but the film constantly stumbles and falls apart. At times, the film is even laughable which is always a poor sign. (My original review here)


So there we go – as mentioned, I’m sure if I would have actively gone and watched all the really bad films, this list would definitely change but I didn’t. The fact still remains though, regardless of whether there is anything worse out there, this list is still a collection of flops. However, as mentioned compared to last year, 2017 was a miracle run in terms of bad films and other than ‘The Mummy’, none of these films are really that bad. Fingers crossed 2018 ends up being as good a year as 2017!

 

 

Best Films of 2017 (10-1)

This is the second part of my Best Films of 2017 feature detailing my Top Ten films. Click here to read numbers 20 to 11 and the Honourable Mentions.

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten films of 2017:

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10) Get Out

Get Out is an innovative and intelligent comedy-horror that is meticulously crafted and endlessly cine-literate. The concept behind this film is very original and is highly critical and satirical of the post-Obama presidency. Rose’s father even states in a recurring line that he “would have nominated Obama for a third term.” Its final third is particularly impressive as the narrative starts to gradually unravel, culminating in a collection of shocking sequences. It also features an interesting score by Michael Abels that is an eclectic mix of neck-prickling strings and melodic themes. The cinematography by Tony Oliver is also thoughtful and well-judged. (My original review here)

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9) Manchester By The Sea 

Manchester By The Sea is a heartfelt, expertly crafted film that features a career-defining performance by Casey Affleck and it takes its time in really developing its characters and allowing its audience to emotionally connect with them. The rest of the cast are also very strong and the narrative really goes to town with these characters who all go through their own equally debilitating experiences. That said, the film does have some flaws in its tone which is a little unbalanced at times and a couple of baffling musical choices also awkwardly impact the film. (My original review here)

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8) Patriots Day

Patriots Day is a fantastic film and in some aspects is even Peter Berg’s most accomplished film. It is a fascinating retelling of these tragic events and has several simply staggering action sequences and is gripping right from the start. It features some fine performances by the majority of its cast and I’m really impressed with the amount of respect the entire cast and crew seem to have for this material. I do think Berg lays it on a little bit thick at the end of the film in an epilogue which is interesting in learning about the fate of these characters but I think Berg’s intentions are a little too patriotic. But other than this, for the most part Berg remains fairly agnostic and even delves into the back story of the criminals as well. (My original review here)

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7) Baby Driver

Baby Driver is an utterly infectious film that is meticulously directed by Edgar Wright and is expertly paced – the film left me giddy with excitement! The action sequences are choreographed to a tee with several heart-pounding yet knowingly absurd car chases that put franchises such as Fast and Furious to shame for managing to craft something far more engaging at a fraction of the budget. It is superbly acted by the cast all-round and Wright has his fingerprints all over this – this is very much an Edgar Wright film through and through. (My original review here)

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6) Logan

Logan is not just a fantastic superhero film, it is also a fantastic Western film that just happens to have a superhero starring in it. The Western genre is a genre that is close to my heart so not only is it refreshing to be given another ace Western but for it to be in the shape of Logan is extremely impressive. The film is gritty, swearytastic and deliciously violent, fully earning the film a 15 / R rating. The performances by the cast all-round are great and Mangold directs this film with real flair. The film has a lot of emotional beats and really develops these characters that we have come to empathise with over the course of this franchise. The story, also manages to surprise with a couple of great twists and turns. I’m not sure if it’s better than The Wolverine but it is definitely equal to it and both of Mangold’s efforts are the best comic-book films since The Dark Knight. (My original review here)

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5) Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge is one of the best war films I have ever seen and features some stunning performances with Gibson’s signature gory yet visceral battle sequences that really throw these men into hell-and-back. Gibson is able to really portray the hardship that these men endure time and time again and whilst I am ever respectful of those fight for their country, this film elevated my respect even more for them whilst watching this film. The film is extremely well-shot and features many memorable sequences – this film fully deserves the Awards attention it recieved! That said, the film is not without fault and an inconsistency in tone is this film’s biggest problem as the two distinct halves of the film don’t quite gel together. The first half in particular of the film which develops these characters and prepares Doss for the battle that lies ahead often head into conventional territory and it is quite bizarre as it almost feels like Gibson is knowingly do this but to what purpose, I’m not sure. However, when the film is able to go berserk, it does and it is immensely satisfying. (My original review here)

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4) Silence

Silence is a beautifully crafted film that features some knock-out performances and is frequently emotionally wrenching. Scorsese directs this film with precision and develops these characters extremely well hence the rather intimidating 161 minute run time. The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is stunning and the film poses lots of philosophical questions and is a brutal test that questions a lot of characters’ religious beliefs. That said, Silence is not quite a perfect film. I have problems with the score (more soundscape) and I also think the film does lose its footing in its ending which tonally shifts a little and it threatens to undo the superb work the rest of the film has tried to craft. It might be that it just requires a rewatch but I did come out feeling underwhelmed as a film that had taken this long to set up its narrative doesn’t exactly reward the viewer’s patience. But despite this, it is a work of art. (My original review here)

Now into the top #3…

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3) Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent is quite extraordinary – it is a haunting, elegiac and mournful account of this late artist’s life and the struggles he faced. The film is profoundly humane in the way it portrays him and at times, inhumane in his treatment by other characters in the film. Once Armand arrives in Auvers, the film transforms into a detective-thriller as Armand learns from the citizens what kind of character the artist was and the particulars leading to his suicide. The film also works as a morality tale and has knowing odes to Citizen Kane with the notion of people’s experiences and perceptions of others. There are many scenes that are just perfectly judged and on a technical level, the paintings are spellbinding. The ever-dependable Clint Mansell’s score is also worthy of commendation – it is the glue that holds this film together and features many memorable cues and themes. (My original review here)

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2) The Handmaiden

‘The Handmaiden’ is Park Chan-Wook at his best – it’s nearly perfect. It has a labyrinthine plot that is interwoven intricately and the characters are developed in an extremely assured manner. It kept me gripped throughout and as the film continues to get more nuts, I was really on board with it. What’s also impressive is that it’s not quite as blatantly violent as some of Park Chan-Wook’s films have been in the past, instead choosing to focus on story. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments of brutal, sadistic violence in this film but it is used sparingly. Visually, the film is beautiful to look at – Chung Chung-Hoon’s cinematography is wonderful and there are plenty of scenery chewing shots. (My original review here)

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1) Brawl In Cell Block 99

Without question, the best film of 2017 is S. Craig Zahler’s sophomore effort, Brawl in Cell Block 99. I loved his debut film, Bone Tomahawk, a Western Horror which managed to fulfil both of those genre promises and then some. It featured in my Best Films of 2016 list, clocking in at 9th due to a slightly saggy middle section. Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a masterpiece of elephantine proportions and along with Hacksaw Ridge, demonstrates a one-two punch by Vince Vaughn who seems to have finally found his calling in film. Vaughn plays Bradley here, who at the beginning of the film loses his job at an auto-repair job and becomes a drug mule. Unfortunately this backfires with devastating consequences. Every element of this film is note perfect, Zahler again delivers another thoughtful script and like Bone Tomahawk, there are some seriously violent and gruesome moments in this film. I was utterly transfixed by this film and was left in utter shock when the film finished that I was speechless for a few moments. I cannot wait for Zahler’s next feature, which is going to be an action film starring Vaughn again and Mel Gibson and on the strengths of his first two films, Zahler is a force to be reckoned with.


So there we go, these films were in my opinion, the best of 2017. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Best Films of 2017 (20-11)

Now that we are in full swing of the 2018 films, it’s time to reflect on 2017 and here I share my Top 20 Films of the year. I know that I am very late in the game but there were quite a few films I didn’t get to watch in time and felt that it would be a disservice to generate a list that wasn’t truly reflective of the year. Although perhaps not as strong as 2015 or 2016, 2017 was still an interesting year in film. A lot of the films that I expected to be great were disappointing and a number of films that were unheard of or those that I initially had little faith in were excellent. I am pretty confident that I can now share my best films of last year which has been particularly hard to compile this year.

Although my Mid-Year Report only included ten films, this list will include 20 films with some honourable mentions as I couldn’t find the heart to neglect so many of these films. The rank order has changed a little from the Mid-Year Report on account of rewatching a lot of these films multiple times and some I have found to be more rewatchable than others. So just because a film ranked higher earlier on last year doesn’t necessarily mean this will be the case now – that’s just the beauty of the art of film I guess. 

Here I rank numbers 20 to 11. The Top Ten will be detailed in a separate post.

Note

I am following the UK release date calendar from January 1st to December 31st hence why a lot of the Awards films do not feature here and why there are some from what may seem like last year. 

Honourable Mentions

Here are my honourable mentions, films that didn’t quite make it into the Top Twenty but I feel that they should still deserve a mention. Please note I have listed them in alphabetical order – this is not a ranking of them. 

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The Founder 

Although it floundered in its Awards campaign it was targeting, The Founder is a very interesting biopic on the rise of McDonalds, with some captivating performances from its cast all round. Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, a businessman who turns one McDonalds fast food restaurant into a nationwide and ultimately global franchise. Keaton’s performance is one of his best in a rather extensive back catalogue, an individual who has no care for others but only himself and business. The Founder loses its footing a little in places, but it’s mostly a very solid film that is frequently gripping, particularly down to the performances and ripe subject matter.

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It Comes At Night 

I found a lot to like in Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes At Night and Shults for much of the film, sustains a very intense, depressing, dour and volatile atmosphere. The performances across the board are great, with the standout being Joel Edgerton. It leaves a lot of plot points to audience imagination (possibly too much) but I was gripped pretty much throughout. I can see why the audience reception has been decidedly mixed – this film has been marketed very differently to the film that we actually get and it’s a very similar situation to what happened with 2016’s The Witch which was similarly marketed as an out-and-out horror film but ended up being more of an atmospheric burn. The film is complimented by an equally moody score and cinematogaphy. It’s not without fault though – it doesn’t quite manage to sustain its energy throughout its entire run time and without spoilers, I thought Shults left a little too much narrative to audience interpretation. (My original review here)

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Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle 

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a surprise treat in the crowded Christmas market of films and a very solid sequel to the Joe Johnston-directed, Robin Williams-led 1995 original. Four teenagers find themselves sucked into the videogame when they try to liven up detention which they have been placed into for breaking the school rules. They have to play as the avatars that they have selected in order to make it out of the jungle alive and not get stuck in the game forever. On paper, this sequel shouldn’t work, as it has a hit-and-miss cast and a director responsible for atrocities such as Bad Teacher and Sex Tape. However, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a film that obeys its own rules and the central concept of evolving the Jumanji board game into a modern videogame is a masterstroke of genius. The ways in which director Jake Kasdan interweaves the game into the film narrative is expertly handled, with characters having to tackle different levels, having a certain amount of lives and expositionary flashbacks and characters synthesised into the story. The film always feels fresh, has a lot of heart and even more surprisingly, questions its characters morals and teaches them some important life lessons. It’s consistently funny as well, with a wide range of humour to suit different audiences. (My original review here)

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Paddington 2

A total surprise and a film I never expected to reach this list, Paddington 2 is the rare sequel that improves on its original in every possible way. I was initially very trepidatious before watching this film – I didn’t love the first film even though reviews for it were charming and I suspected this to be the same case again. Director Paul King has exponentially grown as a filmmaker and the film is expertly paced and laden with humour and heart. The performances all round are brilliant, with Hugh Grant excelling in particular as the villain and the film even makes an interesting commentary on a Brexit-era Britain and the prison system. Paddington 2 is a film that delivers heavily for both children and adults.

 

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Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is a Taika Waititi film through and through – it retains his signature humour and really inverts expectations on what a Thor film should be. This feels refreshingly different from the first two films, more vibrantly coloured and more comical. The film is extremely entertaining and puts the characters that we have grown to like over the course of the films in rather vulnerable positions throughout the film and there is a real sense of danger prevalent. Unlike recent comic book films which have a great, big (and boring) action climax at the end of the film to save the world, Thor: Ragnarok actually earns its finale. The marketing for this film has also been extremely impressive upon viewing the final product – there’s a lot that Marvel have managed to withold from its audiences which is very satisfying. (My original review here)

Now onto the Top Twenty:

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20) War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes is a welcome surprise – it’s grim, heartfelt, revenge-filled and most of all, questions its intelligent audience with multiple morality questions. It is perhaps the strongest of the series, a film with genre hybridity of the Western and the War film, infused with sci-fi. Dialogue is rather scarce in this film and there are many prolonged sequence where the film is almost like a silent film and it is just stunning to behold. Dunkirk, another Summer release also tries to do this but this film succeeds better in this respect due to its stronger characters and more powerful overarching message. ‘War’ is at its best when it is uncompromisingly grim, the pain and loss felt by Caesar and the various nods to the Western and War genre. (My original review here)

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19) Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming, to my surprise, was a breath of fresh air in what has been quite a convoluted genre of late. I thought it struck just the right tone between seriousness and humour and it is a very realistic and grounded film in the Marvel canon. It also features one of the best villains we’ve had in Michael Keaton’s Vulture who is extremely sinister and narcissitic. The whole cast are generally excellent and I was really invested in the narrative that Watts portrays. Watts also does well to not aim too high in terms of visual effects and although there are a couple of impressive action sequences, they never reach the heights of some of the other Marvel films which further helps to keep this film very grounded. (My original review here)

 

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18) Wind River

‘Wind River’ is another cracker by writer Taylor Sheridan who ably steps up to the task of directing as well as writing. Like his previous projects, it is very poetic in parts and deeply haunting and melancholic and his script intelligently written with memorable lines. The unpredictable outbursts violence are extremely raw and brutal, portraying the utter nastiness that this conflict between cultures has resorted to. There are clear juxtapositions between the cold, harsh lanscape surrounding this civilization and the warmth of the inside. There is a constant presence of the cold wind breathing on the necks of these characters which makes ‘Wind River’ deeply sensory for its audiences. At times, I got tingles from the cold, piercing feeling of walking barefoot on snow – Sheridan really has succeeded in crafting a believable world for this narrative to inhabit within. (My original review here)

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17) Only The Brave

Only The Brave is easily the best film of Kosinki’s career and a gripping account of the subject material. It is clear that the cast have the utmost respect for these heroes, resplendent in the modest, genuine performances. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Kosinski is more of a visionary director than a narrative one and his previous filmography is visually pleasing to look at. Why Only The Brave works so well is because it combines Kosinki’s visual talents with a very solid script, allowing a strong equilibrium between the visual and the story. Kosinski captures the forest fires extremely faithfully – they felt genuinely threatening on the screen, the images of smoke and burning woodlands. The characters are also really well developed and I felt empathy particularly for Josh Brolin and Miles Tellers’ characters, the latter being our insight into the forest firefighter industry, a character trying everything he can to turn his life around from his dark past. (My original review here)

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16) Split

Split is frequently entertaining, very competently directed and features some powerhouse sequences. It is one of Shyamalan’s best works. I will not be going into spoilers but Shyamalan’s signature twist is one of his best and one of the best twists of the decade so far – it is so, so clever. Shyamalan’s twists of late haven’t been able to shock compared to some of his earlier work but this might potentially be his best one he’s ever done. However, when one focuses on how Split functions purely as a film, it is not perfect. It is overlong and way too exposition heavy which derails the film a little. There is a near-perfect 100 minute film in here if a lot of this exposition was omitted and this would make the run time more economical. (My original review here)

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15) mother!

One has to be tread very carefully when discussing this film and it took me a while to fully form my genuine opinion of the film as the film requires multiple rewatches. My opinion at first was mixed and now that I have rewatched it three further times, it is still a film that enamours at times but I also still have reservations. The film is a paranoid, nightmarish rush from beginning to end and is set in a world that is desolate, unforgiving and cruel. Lawrence’s character goes through all manners of physical and psychological torture and time and time again, we are made to witness this degradation. It may not be one of director Darren Aronofsky‘s work, but you’ve got to admire the ambition and the ideas behind it, even if the film is flawed. (My original review here)

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14) In A Valley Of Violence

In A Valley Of Violence may be a little simplistic in the plot department but it is a supremely entertaining romp that features some great performances and is suitably graphic at times. It is competently directed by Ti West who has written a memorable script and everyone who is in this film both in front of and behind the camera seems to be having a really great time. Although it doesn’t try and reinvent the genre, from the opening moments when I got on board with it, I had a big smile on my face the whole way through and it’s one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year so far. The performances, across the board, are all excellent and it’s particularly nice to see John Travolta have fun in his role. (My original review here)

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13) Brimstone

I watched Brimstone pretty close to compiling this list, so there is every possibility its position may move in the future. Dutch director Martin Koolhoven’s English language debut, Brimstone is an ambitious, aggressive and violent assault on the senses, fully earning its 18 certificate and then some. This is a dark, twisted Western horror with a gripping narrative and full of brilliant performances, a career best from Dakota Fanning in particular and Guy Pearce, as usual, does a reliable job with the villainous Reverend. The film has proven to be controversial in its response, but I would urge you to go and watch this straightaway and watch a master at work.

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12) The Killing of a Sacred Deer

As with his previous filmography, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a genuinely unnerving and memorable experience, rich with strong themes and disturbing imagery. It is a film that requires multiple rewatches, particularly as Lanthimos has rooted this narrative in a Euripidian Ancient Greek myth. I felt genuinely unclean after watching it and was left thinking about it for quite a while. (My original review here)

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11) Hidden Figures 

Hidden Figures is an extremely easy film to like and barely puts a foot wrong; I was utterly charmed by it the whole way through. It is competently directed by Melfi and has just the right blend of comedy and factual drama in it to prevent it from being too laborious or too comedic. Not only are the performances are great in this film, but the characters are all really well-developed and the screenplay by Melfi and Allison Schroeder is wonderfully written. What stops this film from being perfect is it is fairly conventional in parts and there are a couple of story arcs that are a little underwritten. But these are very small nitpicks in an otherwise near-perfect film. (My original review here)


So there we go, numbers 20 down to 11. Stay tuned for the Top Ten in a separate post…


What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Top Ten Films Of 2017 – Mid-Year Report

Although July, the half-way point of the year has already arrived and it is now, August, I am now ready to share my Top Ten Films of 2017 so far. It is that time of year where many reviewers share their current best films of the year and reflect on what the year in film has been like so far. Although I’m late, I now feel pretty confident that I too am able to share my best films of the year so far. As is to be expected, there are still a few films that I am still yet to see but I have tried to get through all the films that I have been looking forward to or the reviews have been good for. However, as is always the case 9 times out of 10, the best film of the year ends up being the one you’ve never even heard of. As usual, I am following the UK release date calendar between January and June – as you are about to see, there are some Awards films included in this list but these have all been released within this time period in the UK.

Honourable Mentions

As always, there are a handful of films that didn’t quite manage to make it into the Top Ten. They all had their specific problems, but the reason why I feel they should be listed as I found them all to either be entertaining, heartfelt or have some very interesting ideas even if they didn’t quite make it into the Top Ten. As I feel they deserve a mention, I will list them below:

– Aftermath
– The Founder
Get Out
John Wick: Chapter 2
Lion
Wonder Woman

Top Ten Films Of 2017 – Mid Year-Report

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10) Split

‘Split’ is frequently entertaining, very competently directed and features some powerhouse sequences. It is one of Shyamalan’s best works and features perhaps one of the best twists of the decade so far – it is so, so clever. Both James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy are fantastic. However, when one focuses on how ‘Split’ functions purely as a film, it is not perfect. It is overlong and way too exposition heavy which derails the film a little. There is a near-perfect 100 minute film in here if a lot of this exposition was omitted and this would make the run time more economical. (Full review here)

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9) In A Valley Of Violence

‘In A Valley Of Violence’ may be a little simplistic in the plot department but it is a supremely entertaining romp that features some great performances and is suitably graphic at times. It is competently directed by Ti West who has written a memorable script and everyone who is in this film both in front of and behind the camera seems to be having a really great time. Although it doesn’t try and reinvent the genre, from the opening moments when I got on board with it, I had a big smile on my face the whole way through and it’s one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year so far. (Full review here)

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8) Manchester By The Sea

‘Manchester By The Sea’ is a heartfelt, expertly crafted film that features a career-defining performance by Casey Affleck and it takes its time in really developing its characters and allowing its audience to emotionally connect with them. The rest of the cast are also very strong and the narrative really goes to town with these characters who all go through their own equally debilitating experiences. That said, the film does have some flaws in its tone which is a little unbalanced at times and a couple of baffling musical choices also awkwardly impact the film. (Full review here)

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7) Hidden Figures

‘Hidden Figures’ is an extremely easy film to like and barely puts a foot wrong; I was utterly charmed by it the whole way through. It is competently directed by Melfi and has just the right blend of comedy and factual drama in it to prevent it from being too laborious or too comedic. Not only are the performances are great in this film, but the characters are all really well-developed and the screenplay by Melfi and Allison Schroeder is wonderfully written. What stops this film from being perfect is it is fairly conventional in parts and there are a couple of story arcs that are a little underwritten. But these are very small nitpicks in an otherwise near-perfect film. (Full review here)

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6) Patriots Day

‘Patriots Day’ is a fantastic film and in some aspects is even Peter Berg’s most accomplished film. It is a fascinating retelling of these tragic events and has several simply staggering action sequences and is gripping right from the start. It features some fine performances by the majority of its cast and I’m really impressed with the amount of respect the entire cast and crew seem to have for this material. I do think Berg lays it on a little bit thick at the end of the film in an epilogue which is interesting in learning about the fate of these characters but I think Berg’s intentions are a little too patriotic. But other than this, for the most part Berg remains fairly agnostic and even delves into the back story of the criminals as well. (Full review here)

Now into the Top Five…

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5) Baby Driver

‘Baby Driver’ is an utterly infectious film that is meticulously directed by Edgar Wright and is expertly paced – the film left me giddy with excitement! The action sequences are choreographed to a tee with several heart-pounding yet knowingly absurd car chases that put franchises such as ‘Fast and Furious’ to shame for managing to craft something far more engaging at a fraction of the budget. It is superbly acted by the cast all-round and Wright has his fingerprints all over this – this is very much an Edgar Wright film through and through. (Full review herehere)

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4) Logan

‘Logan’ is not just a fantastic superhero film, it is also a fantastic Western film that just happens to have a superhero starring in it. The Western genre is a genre that is close to my heart so not only is it refreshing to be given another ace Western but for it to be in the shape of ‘Logan’ is extremely impressive. The film is gritty, swearytastic and deliciously violent, fully earning the film a 15 / R rating. The performances by the cast all-round are great and Mangold directs this film with real flair. The film has a lot of emotional beats and really develops these characters that we have come to empathise with over the course of this franchise. The story, also manages to surprise with a couple of great twists and turns. I’m not sure if it’s better than ‘The Wolverine’ but it is definitely equal to it and both of Mangold’s efforts are the best comic-book films since ‘The Dark Knight’. (Full review here)

Now into the Top Three…

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3) Hacksaw Ridge

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is one of the best war films I have ever seen and features some stunning performances with Gibson’s signature gory yet visceral battle sequences that really throw these men into hell-and-back. Gibson is able to really portray the hardship that these men endure time and time again and whilst I am ever respectful of those fight for their country, this film elevated my respect even more for them whilst watching this film. The film is extremely well-shot and features many memorable sequences – this film fully deserves the Awards attention it is getting! That said, the film is not without fault and an inconsistency in tone is this film’s biggest problem as the two distinct halves of the film don’t quite gel together. The first half in particular of the film which develops these characters and prepares Doss for the battle that lies ahead often head into conventional territory and it is quite bizarre as it almost feels like Gibson is knowingly do this but to what purpose, I’m not sure. However, when the film is able to go berserk, it does and it is immensely satisfying. (Full review here)

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2) Silence

‘Silence’ is a beautifully crafted film that features some knock-out performances and is frequently emotionally wrenching. Scorsese directs this film with precision and develops these characters extremely well hence the rather intimidating 161 minute run time. The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is stunning and the film poses lots of philosophical questions and is a brutal test that questions a lot of characters’ religious beliefs. That said, ‘Silence’ is not quite a perfect film. I have problems with the score (more soundscape) and I also think the film does lose its footing in its ending which tonally shifts a little and it threatens to undo the superb work the rest of the film has tried to craft. It might be that it just requires a rewatch but I did come out feeling underwhelmed as a film that had taken this long to set up its narrative doesn’t exactly reward the viewer’s patience. But despite this, it is a work of art. (Full review here)

So the best film of the year is…

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1) The Handmaiden

‘The Handmaiden’ is Park Chan-Wook at his best – it’s nearly perfect. It has a labyrinthine plot that is interwoven intricately and the characters are developed in an extremely assured manner. It kept me gripped throughout and as the film continues to get more nuts, I was really on board with it. What’s also impressive is that it’s not quite as blatantly violent as some of Park Chan-Wook’s films have been in the past, instead choosing to focus on story. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments of brutal, sadistic violence in this film but it is used sparingly. Visually, the film is beautiful to look at – Chung Chung-Hoon’s cinematography is wonderful and there are plenty of scenery chewing shots. (Full review here)

Reflection on 2017 in Film so far…

2017 has been a very solid year in terms of film – there is not one downright terrible film that I have come across yet (well maybe ‘The Mummy‘…) despite being disappointed and rather critical of a number of films this year. There have been a lot of sequels this year and the scale of quality has been from extremely impressive to disappointing. Note that there is only one sequel on this list – ‘Logan’ and the reason it did so well was because it really turned the genre on its head. 2017 hasn’t been quite as strong as 2016 so far but it’s still been a good crop of films and here’s hoping the second half of the year continues to prosper.

What’s Next…?

2017 looks set to continue to be a great year in film and just listing a couple of films that look like they have potential include:

– It Comes At Night
– Spider-Man: Homecoming
– War For The Planet Of The Apes
– Cars 3
– Dunkirk
– A Ghost Story
– Annabelle: Creation
– The Dark Tower
– Logan Lucky
– Detroit
– It
– Wind River
– Kingsman: The Golden Circle
– Blade Runner 2049
– The Snowman
– Thor: Ragnarok
– Jigsaw
– Murder On The Orient Express
– Mother!
– Justice League
– The Killing Of A Sacred Deer
– God Particle
– Star Wars: The Last Jedi

However, it is important to note that this is not a definitive list and these titles are just a few picks scattered across the remainder of the year that have piqued my interest.


Worst Five Films of 2016

Whilst 2016 brought us some fantastic films,  it is fair to say that 2016 hosted some of its fair shares of cinema atrocities too. Luckily, not as many 20 which is what I have in my favourites list, but listed below are 5 films that really got me seething. I must note before that I actively try and avoid films that I just know are going to be horrendous (a real film critic has to sit through everything though which is what in an ideal world, I want to be) so this list might not be truly representative. One must also realise the difference between a film that is disappointing and a film that is truly bad. I could probably find 20 films that disappointed me last year but this is not the purpose of this post. Compared to 2015, I have to say that this list is a lot more mild. Although the worst film on this list is a bad film, if I were listing these films in tandem with last year, I think the Top 4 are probably worse from last year than the worst film this year. 

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5) The Neon Demon 

I’ve had a very mixed relationship with director Nicolas Winding Refn and his films. I really liked ‘Drive’ but I do find his direction generally quite obtrusive and this film has all of his worst qualities. Reviews for this film have been decidedly mixed and I can understand why one might like this film and I really did try to stick it out and try and find something of value here but around the half-way mark, I couldn’t and the film really started to get on my nerves. Elle Fanning is good enough in the lead role but I absolutely hated her character and the message that Refn was sending out to audiences. The rest of the performances were pretty poor, with the exception of Keanu Reeves who seems to be having fun here in a really odd, misguided storyline. The film is obviously designed to shock in places which it does but it’s too little too late and when you have characters as utterly hateful as the ones here are, there’s not much to save this film.

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4) X-Men: Apocalypse 

‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ severely drops the ball big time – it is far and away the worst entry in the entire franchise and apart from a promising first 45 minutes or so, is a CGI bore. The story is incoherent and sloppy and particularly towards the film’s climax, the film is unwatchable. Even the acting which is normally stellar is very underwhelming and there are many examples of both old and new characters phoning it in. There is some stuff to like here – there are a couple of good sequences and the film opens up rather promisingly but other than this, the film is an outright disaster. It is an overstuffed and incoherent mess. (My original review here)

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3) Bad Santa 2 

It pains me to say that ‘Bad Santa 2′ is a lazy, puerile, mean-spirited sequel. It’s not funny at all save for a few one liners that got a faint chuckle out of me and the film actually really got on my nerves as the film progressed. It’s not quite as offensive as some other comedy sequels as it doesn’t try and turn the humour up to 11, instead ‘Bad Santa 2’ is just painfully flat and has no plot. On the narrative front, it’s pretty ropey but Billy Bob Thornton at least gives a good performance as the titular character but it’s just an awful shame he’s been equipped with such a bad script that pairs him up with hateful characters – it’s not going to do him any favours and will undoubtedly be another hit on his career which he doesn’t need.  Alarm bells should have been ringing when news of Mark Waters’ hiring was announced – he is not suitable for this material and has spat upon the legacy of a film that I really like. ‘Bad Santa 2’ can be thrown away and burnt on the ever-increasing list of bad comedy sequels – it is not the Christmas treat that we deserved or wanted. (My original review here)

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2) Midnight Special 

Surprisingly, a film that was critically acclaimed by both critics and audiences but I found to be absolutely dire. What I will say before completing ripping this film apart is that the always talented Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton’s performances are great even if they look confused to be in this film. Other than this, the film is  lazy, unoriginal and annoyingly directed by Jeff Nichols who I increasingly dislike as a film director but many others think he’s very talented. Not being able to connect with the film at all, I stuck with it on the promise that the ending was going to really be something special but it wasn’t. I’m not saying for a second I don’t like Steven Spielberg but the best way to describe ‘Midnight Special’ is by imagining a film with the corny qualities of Steven Spielberg directed with the utter contempt that Jeff Nichols has and feels like it’s 3 hours long. An utter snoozefest and I don’t understand how others have loved it. I haven’t even dared to approach ‘Loving’ yet which got critical buzz. 

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1) The Boy

Ever since the first trailer came out, I was very trepidacious about the film and then after finally watching it, ‘The Boy’ confirmed my fears. It is horrendously acted, is not scary in the slightest and at the film’s big reveal at the end, it is utterly laughable and I couldn’t take the film seriously. The film looks like it was made-for-television and is cliched the entire way through and offers nothing new to the genre. At least however, it isn’t as offensive as the majority of the films listed as my Worst Films of 2015 but in terms of all the films that I have watched in 2016, this was the worst one. A real shame and it doesn’t do the horror genre any favours – luckily, the year was otherwise triumphant with films such as ‘The Witch’, ‘Green Room’, ‘Under The Shadow’, ‘Hush’ and ‘The Conjuring 2‘ that managed to make a lasting impression and made people forget about this film. But I didn’t forget about it and so here it is so that it can get the embarassment it so rightly deserves. 


So there we go – as mentioned, I’m sure if I would have actively gone and watched all the really bad films, this list would definitely change but I didn’t. The fact still remains though, regardless of whether there is anything worse out there, this list is still a collection of flops. However, as mentioned compared to last year, 2016 was a miracle run in terms of bad films and I would question whether ‘The Boy’ would even rank in the Top Five from last year. Fingers crossed 2017 ends up being as good a year as 2016 but also that there is nothing truly awful released.