There were some pretty good movies last year. But before we get to those, let's dwell in our own misery a little longer.
Least Necessary Film of 2017
Beauty and the Beast (the live-action remake)
I see absolutely no (non-fiscal) reason for this film to exist. Maybe it's because I have no reverence for the original, but throughout I felt like I was witnessing nothing but fan service for something I wasn't a fan of. Disney's probably going to keep churning these things out instead of making anything new, because so far they've sold a metric butt-tonne of tickets. That said, I'm probably still going to see the upcoming Lion King and Aladdin remakes.
Ghost in the Shell also gets a shout-out for attempting something different to its original, but failing.
Most Disappointing Film of 2017
I remember leaving that first movie pretty blown away (especially that church scene), so I was pretty keen for this one. Nothing about this movie made me happy - the comic relief is bad, there might be some weird misogyny in there, and even the action struck me as strangely paced and kind of lame. What little restraint the original had is thrown out the window, and at some point it becomes sort of a bizarre mixed-message PSA about saying no to drugs (I shit you not). It has made me wonder if the first movie was even any good in the first place.
Worst Film of 2017 (that I saw)
The weird thing about this movie is that there are actually some weirdly good things about it. It was kind of nice the way they wrapped up Orlando and Keira's stories without actually having them feature much in the plot. And I'll tell you what, it was close between this and Justice League - but this came out on top just for how soulless the whole thing felt.
A fun action flick with a neat gimmick, Baby Driver shows off Edgar Wright's versatility - he's not only one of the best comedic directors around, he also has some pretty serious action chops. It never quite found the flow I was hoping for, but it's very solid.
By far the best DCEU film thus far. Gal Gadot continues to be excellent, creating an empathetic character where I didn't realise one existed. Sure, the villain and the climax are pretty standard comic movie stuff, but the rest of the film does some cool things to show the darkness of war while also somehow being a fun superhero action movie. Maybe it ends up being a bit clichéd, and I really wish it had stuck to its guns on the whole "war being part of humanity's darkness" thing. But, as much as has been made about this being the first proper female-centred superhero movie, it really is just plain nice to see a woman in the lead role of a comic book movie for once. And a good one, even better. It's just a real shame that Justice League had to be the follow-up.
As an Alien film, as a horror film, I will acknowledge that Covenant is not nearly as good as it could have been. But for what it did to expand and explore the Alien lore, as a sequel to Prometheus and for the brilliant characterisation of the android David, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's not as scary as an Alien movie and It's way more gory than the first two (also known as the good two). It leans on horror movie tropes (like bad situations arising merely from the sheer stupidity of the characters) more than any other Alien film. But it's got some damn good cinematic, artistic stuff and that's pretty neat. At some point, I want to get around to writing that full review of it, so I'll hopefully say more there.
A solid conclusion to a brilliant trilogy, this movie just didn't quite do it for me like the other two did. Still definitely worth a watch.
The other Marvel film of the year, its sense of humour just didn't quite land for me like Thor and Spider-Man (see below). It does some really unexpected things plot-wise and is still a solid entry in the MCU.
Lachlan's Top 10 Films of the Year
Okay, so the honourable mentions ended up almost as long as the actual list. Oh well, gotta stick to that arbitrary number I chose. Here we go.
Maybe the funniest Marvel movie to date. It took a little while for the jokes to click with me - at first they come across a little forced - but once it gets into full swing, it's a great ride. As an Aussie I really loved the touches of Kiwi humour Taika Waititi brought to the thing. Sure, it turns an end-of-the-world scenario into a comedy movie, but it pulls it off while avoiding cringe - even the forced Doctor Strange cameo is pretty good.
I like the new Peter Parker a whole lot. I also like how this movie plays on the fact that he's a teenager - with Tony Stark taking on the role of stern father-figure who only wants the best for him (and doesn't want him to repeat his own mistakes), completed by Peter sneaking out to disobey him because he just knows he's right. Although not as uproarious as Thor, it's also pretty funny in the way that Marvel films rarely fail at these days.
7. Get Out
A cool horror movie that effectively makes you feel the leering menace of white suburbia through the eyes of a black person.
Scary as hell, It really nails that creepy small-town feel. Pennywise and his splayed eyes are deeply disturbing.
The fact that the mature-rated Deadpool was a box office success last year seems to have cleared the way for a number of gory superhero films. The first of these is Logan.
Adapting the much-beloved Old Man Logan storyline from the comics, Logan goes places no other superhero film has before. Even though it's really nothing like the other movies in tone and style, this might actually be the best X-Men film. The things it does with the characters of Logan and Professor X are really fascinating, and it manages to become a fitting - and oddly touching - conclusion to Wolverine's story.
This is a black comedy like I've never seen. The plot just keeps taking new turns, going in directions you'd never expect, but somehow manages to stay uncontrived every step of the way. It avoids becoming a Coenesque farce, instead coming across as extremely heartfelt. Great stuff.
I went into Dunkirk wondering how on Earth Christopher Nolan was going to do a straightforward war film without putting some weird twist in at the end (aliens?). Some nonlinear editing tricks accomplish the twists, not in plot, but in experience - all of the events are actually pretty straightforward, but the way they wrap around each other (cut together most non-linearly) make the film seem twist-filled without ever making it hard to follow. It's very cool.
Nolan films are never easy to watch, and this is no different. It has the same intensity as a Dark Knight or Interstellar. It makes you feel the dread of a lurking U-boat or swooping dive-bomber, the desperation of men trying to survive. It's touching and emotionally resonant in the way that only Nolan seems capable of (Interstellar still gets some tears out of me, and I really don't know why, goddamn it). In terms of the violence, it's decidedly less gory than a Saving Private Ryan, even where bombs and bullets might actually call for it (there is a scene near the very start that makes this very obvious - exploding bombs throw bodies into the air in one piece instead of tearing them to shreds). While this might seem to lessen the impact somewhat, it means the audience remains un-distracted from the psychological impact of war - which the film conveys very well. Where it succeeds most is showing the spectrum of responses, from the self-sacrificing hero to the shell-shocked PTSD victim to the men trying to escape however they can. The dogfights were good enough to impress my Spitfire-fanatic of a dad. Dunkirk has reaffirmed Christopher Nolan's place as my favourite modern director.
Gee, they sure nailed languid pace of the original. And then extended it by 46 minutes. Whether that appeals to you or not is the biggest determining factor of how much you like this move. But the twists and turns of the plot are truly fascinating, it's emotionally resonant in places, and it's beautiful the whole way through. I loved every single lingering shot of the cinematography and the cyberpunk future tech - even if it really felt like it should've ended about a whole hour earlier than it actually did. So far I really like everything I've seen from Dennis Villeneuve, and I can't wait to see what he does next.
I saw this movie twice in quick succession, so in some ways it's the most well-informed choice on this list. On the other hand, it's the one I initially felt most conflicted about. I've got a lot to say about this movie, and a review should be popping up around these parts soon. For now, suffice to say that, despite its deep, deep (deep) flaws, The Last Jedi is my favourite film of the year.