Wednesday, 5 July 2017

2017 - The Year So Far

Where does the time go? We're already halfway through 2017, and it feels like we're just scratching the surface of what this year's pieces of cinema have to offer us. As for what's been released so far? Well, let's take a look at what, in my personal opinion, are the 10 Best, and Worst, films released so far this year.


Worst

Dishonourable mentions go to xXx: Return of Xander Cage, a franchise revival which overloads on half-hearted action, at the expense of logic, or reasons to care for the characters, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, a belated attempt to cash in on a franchise name that leaves one appreciating the original cast.

10. In developing King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, it's not clear what the overall intention was. Is Guy Ritchie trying to make his typical geezer flick, complete with ridiculously named characters, dizzying editing, and the dialogue he's used to? Or is the intention to craft a subpar version of The Lord of the Rings, that's complete with an overuse of CG and action that resembles poorly rendered video game cutscenes? That's never decided upon, and the result is this identity crisis of a film.

9. The inkling of something half-decent is notable within The Bye Bye Man. Unfortunately, it's lost among a picture as lazy and forgettable as the villain's own name. We're stuck following poorly defined characters who spout exposition, portrayed by actors whose best work appears to be half-heartedly making a worried face. The eponymous villain could have been an underrated horror villain, but is wholly unintimidating, let down by a derivative design, and a canine sidekick which feels like a relic from a poorly designed 90s Playstation game.

8. Adapted from a 2010 novel, A Dog's Purpose brings to screen the idea of reincarnation, told from a dogs perspective. It's clear director Lasse Hallström intends to make a sweet tale, but the result is excessively so, with a willingness to be emotionally manipulative. Not helping matters are the moments which touch on darker elements, feeling entirely out of place with the tone that's already been set up.

7. Adapted from a James Gunn script written over 7 years ago, The Belko Experiment wants to try and deliver Battle Royale within an office block. The end result wastes any potential for some kind of inventiveness, not even in the kills, which resorts to the bog standard uses of guns, knives and axes too quickly. Eighty employees are at risk, and there's little reason to care for their antics, or for any of their poorly defined lives. What we're ultimately left with is a dull excuse to rack up a body count.

6. I doubt many films from this year will be as woefully misjudged as The Book of Henry. An awful mess that's unable to handle its jarring tonal shifts, let alone make them feel anything but out of place with one another. At best, this is an incompetent TV movie that somehow garnered a big screen release. At worst, it feels like Jimmy Neutron and his militarised mother versus child abuse.

5. Even when not considered the superior French film it's based on, Sleepless is a weak and uninteresting piece of cinema. A by the numbers picture that lacks any kind of tension, preferring to insert the most basic and uninteresting of action scenes around the pedestrian attempts at storytelling. Probably the years most ironic title, as one could easily fall asleep watching this.

4. If one needs a strong argument to end a long-running franchise, look no further than Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge. A plot involving an army of the undead, two dull leads whose lives are entwined with Captain Jacks, and a British army hounding them? This is a dull and uninspired retread of what's come beforehand, much like Johnny Depp's portrayal. You'll never root more for a guillotine.

3. Intended to kick off Universal's Dark Universe, The Mummy does little to garner promise or good will for the future. To be fair, it doesn't fare much better as a film in it's own right. Six different people worked on the story and the screenplay, making for an overstuffed mess that feels like multiple films working against each other, vying for screentime. Our lead, portrayed by Tom Cruise, is an unlikeable and self-centred looter who's never properly developed, while the villainous Princess Ahmanet is written as lazily as her "tattoos and bandages" look. Previous incarnations had Imhotep, a hopeless romantic who yearned to be reunited with his beloved. In comparison, someone lusting power and wanting to raise the Egyptian devil is yawn inducing.

2. What does any longstanding horror franchise need for a good revival? If your answer is to expand the mythology in the most needless and convoluted of ways, then you're probably one of the writers of Rings. A product which feels like an amalgamation of multiple butchered scripts, with one deciding that ripping off last year's Don't Breathe was the way to go. A boring hack-job you're better off not experiencing.

1. Of 2017's releases, no film managed to perfectly replicate the symptoms of a migraine more than Transformers: The Last Knight. The bloated runtime finds time to over-explain the massively convoluted plot, and include a scene where Anthony Hopkins & Laura Haddock discuss when Mark Wahlberg last had sex. These are deemed important over developing any of the endless plot points this film wastes, but then so is the incomprehensible action scenes. The most effort evident here is in saying that a Transformer watch assassinated Hitler, and that's for something which lasts a few seconds.

Best

Honourable mentions go to Logan, a solemn and contemplative picture which acts as a fine send-off for Hugh Jackman's best known role, and Colossal, which phenomenally uses Kaiju as an allegory for themes of alcoholism, abuse and toxic masculinity.

10. A love letter to the Caped Crusader, The LEGO Batman Movie is one of the best iterations of the title character. An experience that's great fun, packed with wonderful visual animation and fluid scenes of action. The real strength lies in the script, written in ways both touching and humorous, while holding an honest reverence for the Dark Knight's long, detailed history.

9. At the heart of it, Roger Michell's My Cousin Rachel is an enticing thriller that has no problems playing up its central mystery. Is Rachel a gold digging seductress and a poisoner? Or a sexually charged woman who's the victim of unfortunate gossip? No easy answer is given, leaving it up to viewers to decide on what they believe to be true. Rachel Weisz is perfectly up to the task, bringing to the role a multi-layered and compelling performance.

8. For his follow up to the surprise hit of 2014, James Gunn has cast a focus on characterisation and development for his beloved protagonists. All throughout the terrifically realised action & spectacle, the emotional core is never lost, and these elements ensure Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is more than just a blockbuster ride through the cosmic side of the MCU. The wicked soundtrack and great sense of humour helps, though.

7. A beautiful tale brought alive through gorgeous animation, The Red Turtle is a stunning accomplishment. Dialogue is nearly extinct from the product, leaving the universal language of storytelling to hold the narrative in a strong manner. Some moments could have done with the smallest use of words, but no such inclusion is necessary for the films majority. An exemplary tale about loneliness, not giving up when life hits you hard, and making the best of whatever comes your way.

6. The feature length debut of Julia Ducournau, Raw is an engrossing and engaging experience for all, with a great dose of black comedy included within. Cannibalism is used as more than just a way of showing off gore and practical effects, becoming an effective allegory for coming of age and identity. One of the years more unique experiences, and a promising start for Ducournau.

5. A picture that outstandingly maintains its tension between the terrific cast, before a fired gun serves as the tipping point for all. Free Fire then becomes one long shootout, yet one unlike traditional Hollywood fare. Every bullet hurts, a fact made abundantly clear by the cries of pain made by the characters, and how they're left unable to move, or only able to painfully crawl after others. An absolute blast, sustaining action and comedy with ease.

4. For a feature film debut, Get Out is a stunning achievement. Writer & director Jordan Peele has a strong handle on the genre, blending relevant satire with a good amount of humour, & an effectively simmering tension. A sharply penned film, containing a strong sense of foreboding, as well as the most menacing Bingo game one will witness. An effective piece of horror that will leave one excited for Peele's future in cinema.

3. If you let the silly title fool you as to the nature of My Life As A Courgette, then the opening moments will more than set you straight. Doing more with a 66 minute runtime than many films do with double the length, very adult topics are tackled, from the perspective of our child protagonist. A heartfelt tale full of well rounded characters, brought to life with gorgeous stop-motion work. This will leave one laughing as easily as it will leave them weeping.

2. It may have taken over 75 years for the title character to receive a feature film, but goodness me, Wonder Woman is more than worth the wait. Patty Jenkins brings to life her clearly defined and spirited vision, as the film resembles its lead character, in being something optimistic, and a beacon of hope amongst a bleak landscape. Gal Gadot deftly portrays the lead, both in the big and small moments, where the mere scene of her first tasting ice cream is an absolute highlight. If the rest of the DCEU fails to work, then at least we got such a wonderful feature for the last member of DC's Trinity.

1. A kinetic joyride that will leave pulses racing, Baby Driver is exactly what's needed for those who long for original cinema. Edgar Wright has meticulously selected one of the years best soundtracks, with each selection feeling absolutely integral to their corresponding scene, crafting a stunning ballet of gunfire and car choreography. Ansel Elgort and Lily James wonderfully sell their characters, be it in their own life journeys, and their engaging romance. This is a film which deserves to be witnessed on the big screen, don't let it pass you by.

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