Nat’s Top 10 Movies for 2017

It’s a personel moment when a film reaches into your mind to take you on a journey.  And I’m happy to say this is what the films below have given me over the past year.

Being an avid fan of the horror/thriller I was surprised when I realised  IT didn’t make it into my top 10 for 2017.  However, after a re-watch I found that, although a great coming-of-age film (still rating:★★★★), IT was more a monster movie than a thriller with Pennywise a little too animated for my taste.

So, brace yourself because it was more about the suspense and intellectual thrill that tickled the grey cells this year, with a bit of humour thrown in the mix.

10.

MOONLIGHT

Drama ★★★★☆ (4.2/5)

Moonlight is unique in that it’s both raw and subtle, creating something else, a feeling that stays with you that’s beautiful because it’s laid bare.  What a rarity and an experience you won’t soon forget.

9.

DUNKIRK

Action / Drama / History ★★★★☆ (4.2/5)

Nolan has used his talent to bring the true story of Dunkirk to the screen without over-dramatising, allowing us to admire the courage and valour of the civilians of Britain who saved more than 330, 000 soldiers’ lives.

Suspense like a ticking time-bomb.

8.

WIND RIVER

Crime/Mystery ★★★★☆ (4.2/5)

After writing the screenplay for the two highly regarded crime/thrillers, Sicario (2015) – which I gave a 5/5, and, Hell or High Water (2016), Taylor Sheridan has returned as writer and as director (debut) of the crime/mystery, Wind River: a tragedy based on actual events, beautifully told, where each moment, word and gesture show more than just the surface.

7.

GOOD TIME

Drama/Arthouse ★★★★☆ (4.2/5)

The Safdie brothers (Josh and Ben) return with their fifth feature film, building on their gonzo-style street films with Official Selection and winner of the Cannes Soundtrack Award, Good Time.

And I was hooked from the opening scene.

6.

PADDINGTON 2

Comedy for kids but made to be enjoyed by all: Hillarious! ★★★★☆ (4.2/5)

When any thought of reality is overwhelmed with wonder.

5.

BLADE RUNNER 2049

SciFi ★★★★☆ (4.3/5)

Atmospheric and quietly menacing.

And that’s the quality of the film, subtle: complicated emotions yet, made to feel simple.  A kind of gentle unfolding with an underlying darkness driving life into the shadows, but the shadows fighting back, like life…

Ah, don’t you love it when a movie makes you feel all moody when you leave the cinema!

4.

SUBURBICON

Comedy/Crime/Mystery ★★★★1/2

Deadpan delivery of the clever, the very dark and the very funny.

3.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

Fantasy/SciFi ★★★★1/2

Rian Johnson also wrote and directed, Looper (2012) and has brought that same attention to the script here, revealing layer upon layer of story to take the audience on a journey totally unexpected.

No other word to describe: Epic!

2.

Miss Sloane

Drama / Thriller ★★★★☆ (4.6/5)

This is a thoroughly absorbing film because its cleverness is combined with an undercurrent of emotion that’s felt without needing explanation. 

Classy and smart all the way – brilliant.

1.

MOUNTAIN

Documentary ★★★★★

Unbelievable as it may be, but a documentary tops my list of best films of 2017: I felt like my soul was being fed by this symphony of poetry, imagery and sound.

A combination of sound and stomach clenching cinematography creates a thrill as people fly down slopes or jump into the air 1000s of feet above the earth, death defying leaps, where there really must be an element of insanity, to even think, yet, it’s not about thinking, it’s about feeling alive.

Enjoy!

Pitch Perfect 3

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MPitch Perfect 3

Directed by: Trish Sie

Story by: Kay Cannon

Produced by: Paul Brooks, p.g.a, Max Handelman, p.g.a, Elizabeth Banks, p.g.a

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hana Mae Lee, Alexis Knapp with Jan Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks.

Firstly, I admit to being a Pitch Perfect novice.  In fact, a novice to any musical – I really don’t get it and find the idea cheesy: go watch a film clip if that’s what you want.

But, I can be open-minded and am a sucker for a good joke.  And thankfully, Pitch Perfect 3 had more going for it than sometimes out-of-sync, 20-something-year-olds, having their first life-crisis viewed through a soft-focus lens.

Producers Paul Brooks of Gold Circle and Max Handelman and Elizabeth Banks of Brownstone Production have returned after the huge success of the previous Pitch Perfect instalments which made more than $400 million at the global box office.

Writer Kay Cannon, who wrote the first two films of the series, has also joined the team, sharing screenplay credit with Mike White – this time bringing more music and action to the final reunion of the Bellas.Pitch Perfect 3

The story so far shows the girls post-graduation from Barden, embracing their new careers as personal trainers and vet nurses, producers of hip hop artists (where I admit the over-produced version Beca makes to improve a track called, Bend Over was worse than the supposed bad original: picking on the authentic, yo!) to the (speaking of authentic) Fat Amy Winehouse with Rebel Wilson still bringing it with those facial expressions and dead-pan delivery of the disgusting that’s funny cause she’s so cute.

But the girls don’t feel like they’re winning in life-after-college, so when they get an invite for a reunion of the Bellas, they can’t wait to get back on stage again.

And the singing is good.  If the lip syncing was sometimes very bad.

Pitch Perfect 3

Rudy Rose joins the cast in the attempt-to-be-cool villain and lead singer in a band called Evermoist, which competes against the Bellas in a USO tour that involves playing in front of army boys.  Add country band Saddle Up and DJ Dragon Nuts and DJ Looney, the Bellas get their much needed competition, that really becomes more about signing a contract with DJ Khaled, AKA Bill – the simplified name, Billy kinda cracking me up with the script adding some odd-ball humour.  As did Lilly (Hanna Mae Lee) with her truly random behaviour…

It wasn’t until Beca tells Theo (the music exec and key part of DJ Khaled’s crew, so a big deal regarding the competition) that he looks like a turtle, and then to face-off the awkward moment, that I really started to get into the film.

So, really, I think the idea is to have so many different characters with unique personalities, so the audience will identify with at least one?

But what they all have in common is they look like they’re having a good time.

This is a high-energy movie where some noise in the audience is all part of the experience.

The best and most believable performance had to come from competitor’s Saddle Up, also a band in real life and the DJs were pretty good (also real-life musicians – Trinidad James and DJ Looney).  But jeez, I did not get into the Evermoist crew.  But I guess that’s the point, being the villains and all.   Still…

So anyway, the Bellas get back together and jet-set around the world in this USO tour, when suddenly Fat Amy’s long-lost Dad (John Lithgow) finds her in Europe (having been banned from the US for his criminal activities).  And I have to admit, Lithgow pulls off a pretty decent Aussie accent.

So that adds a few twists to an otherwise musical about the usual friendship/finding love formula.

What can I say, a musical, yes, but with some good comedy and odd-ball random moments thrown in for the non-musical fan.

Pitch Perfect 3 was quickly forgotten but fun while it lasted.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MStar Wars: The Last Jedi

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Written by: Rian Johnson

Based on Characters Created by: George Lucas

Music by: John Williams

Cinematography by: Steve Yedlin

Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Frank Oz, Billie Laurd, Joonas Suotamo, Amanda Lawrence, Jimmy Vee, Brian Herring and Dave Chapman.  

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was the best episode of Star Wars made to date…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) is epic people!

This film has everything: fantasy, drama and conflict and betrayal and action with lightsaber fights that last just long enough…

And I was surprisingly emotional through-out the film with General (Princess) Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) filmed and thankfully not animated so she looked so real and so there.

It was such a pleasure to see Carrie Fisher up on the big screen for the final time… See what I mean about emotional?!Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Director and writer, Rian Johnson has spent a lot of time getting the detail of the story right.  There’s new characters mixed with old that keep the story interesting with the familiar and the excitement of seeing new critters adding to the lightness and wonder of this visual story.

Rian Johnson also wrote and directed, Looper (2012) and has brought that same attention to the script here, revealing layer upon layer of story to take the audience on a journey totally unexpected.

And I liked how the film was set both in space and on land – the effects of space fantastic on the big screen and the grounding of seeing the ocean crash into rocks and the salty sand of the desert kicking up red dust visually surprising.Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The island where the previous episode, The Force Awakens, leaves us with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is expanded upon, the thought put into the vastness of the landscape impressive with new sea creatures and those cute Porgs (that look like a cross between a penguin and a puffin) alongside old favourites like Chewbacca.

This episode sees the story unfold around the never ceasing Resistance as they fight The First Order led by Supreme Leader, Snoke (Andy Serkis) as he takes hold of the universe.  The final threads of the Resistance making that final last stand with Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeking the return of the equally resistant Luke Skywalker hiding on his island after losing all faith when his student and best friend and sister’s son, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) turns to the Dark Side.Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Adam Driver has really grown into his role as Kylo Ren (the highlight for me) – the film taking time to explore this new character, making him as deep and fascinating as Darth Vader.

But like life, there’s dark and there’s light.  There’s good and bad in everyone – the conflict of the Force in Luke and Rey and Kylo adding to an otherwise action and suspenseful film.

And, for me, the most suspenseful Star Wars so far.

The Last Jedi is a further exploration into the Dark Side giving this episode a sharper edge and depth – the fantasy element making the story more griping and thought-provoking than the usual Sci-Fi weight of the previous instalments.

And the timing of the story was perfect.  The twists in the tale, many.

Prepare for an epic experience: it’s a long one (2h 33m) but well worth the journey.

Paddington 2

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: GPaddington 2

Directed by: Paul King

Produced by: David Heyman

Written by: Paul King and Simon Farnaby

‘Paddington Bear’ created by: Michael Bond

Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi with Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington.

Sans nephew and not having seen the original Paddington (2014) – well, only bits on the cable TV that I caught watching with a patient at (my other life) work; both of us agreeing the film looking surprisingly good and Paddington The Bear textured and lovely: I wasn’t sure what to expect with Paddington 2.

But when a premier ends with applause from the audience and finding a grin on my face with added moments of laughing-out-loud, you know you’re on to a winner.

‘Stop that stunning sister!’ Yells Barry (Simon Farnaby – also co-writer!), the vice deputy security guard of St Paul’s Cathedral, as the villain-of-many-disguises, Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) escapes capture disguised as a nun.

There’s something about that British humour here that just tickles.  And Hugh Grant cast as the has-been actor (now famous for starring in dog commercials) is hilarious.

Paddington 2

Paddington 2 is the sequel to the hugely successful 2014 Paddington – a world wide hit and the most successful non-US family film of all time.

Based on the children’s books written by Michael Bond, Paddington 2 is a fitting tribute to Bond who passed away this year aged 91.

Producer David Heyman has re-united the Paddington team with Paul King at the forefront as director and co-writer – and they’ve all brought their A-game.

From the delightful costumes from designer Lindy Hemming (seriously, I spent half the movie laughing at Phoenix-the-villain’s outfits, socks pulled to knees over breeches included) to the intricacies of the set surprising and clever (production designer Gary Williamson) reminiscent of the Harry Potter movies but with the bright lights of a carnival and a jail shown like a stage set with the jungle of Peru growing through the floor boards.

And of course, Paddington – the texture of his fur making him appear so realistic.Paddington 2

Yet, the story did have glaring holes that is so incredibly un-realistic with the movie about Paddington unjustly being incarcerated for stealing a pop-up book from an antique store for 10 years: really?!

But this is a kid’s movie and when the pop-up book rises to fill the screen and to have Paddington running through the scenes of the book’s pages, any thought of unreality is overwhelmed with wonder.

And there’s some beautiful characters here – the film isn’t all about Paddington.

There’s Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson a personal favourite actor of mine), the shaggy dog, the Brown family and the neighbours living on the same street who all have their own story, used not just as a backstory for Paddington, but to also circle back into the film making each character worthwhile and needed giving that satisfying feeling of completeness while adding a layer to the themes of acceptance and finding the good in everyone you meet.

I’m still grinning replaying the moments, even if I’m not a fan of marmalade.