Films of 2017: My Top 12 Picks

Opinion Piece

Happy New Year Ladies and Gentlemen! Yes we are all now suffering the post-holiday blues,  and to make up for it we’re already showing off on our countless social media accounts how we’re in the gym sweating off that built up holiday fat, or even torturing ourselves with a “dry” January  (even though the UK isn’t going through a water shortage). Without dawdling on unrealistic expectations, what we can expect and rely on is another brilliant year of releases in UK cinemas. Here are my twelve picks (one for every month) of my most anticipated movies of 2017. Let me know in the comments section below what film(s) you are most excited to see in the next twelve months!

January

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Top Pick: La La Land (12th January)

With awards season in full swing, the UK will be provided an abundance of movies hotly tipped to be nominated for the upcoming Oscars at the end of February. BUT none of these were close to the film that I chose as my top film of 2016. Be ready to watch a musical masterpiece as “La La Land” is finally released here in the UK. A film that is pure joy from the beginning to the end. If you need a date movie, this is THE ONE to watch with that special someone! (Watch the trailer here)

Runner Up: Manchester by the Sea, A Monster Calls, Silence, Jackie, Lion, Split, Christine, Hacksaw Ridge, T2 Trainspotting

February

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Top Pick: Moonlight (17th February)

My top pick and one which is La La Land’s real competition in winning Best Picture in this year’s Oscars is Barry Jenkins’ critically acclaimed “Moonlight”. A story that follows the life of an African American over three stages of his life, whos trying to come to terms with his sexuality is vital and relevant viewing, given the awful acts that have happened in the US in the last year towards the Black and LGBT community. (Watch the trailer here)

Runner Up: Toni Erdmann, Loving, Fences, The Lego Batman Movie, John Wick: Chapter 2

March

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Top Pick: Logan (3rd March)

It’s the last ever outing from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine that is my top pick of March. After 17 years spread over 8 films, Jackman will finally hang his claws playing the character that has made him a household name in the movie industry. We will see a very old Logan who’s healing abilities are now failing, trying to protect a teenage girl with the same mutant abilities as him, whilst taking care of a dementia stricken Professor Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart). Am I finally gonna get the Wolverine from the comics? Gotta have to wait and see. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: Free Fire, Ghost in the Shell

April

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Top Pick: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (28th April)

April sees the release of “The Handmaiden”, the next film from master South Korean director Park Chan-Wook (if you don’t know who he is, go and check out the incredible “Vengeance” trilogy by him). Yet it is overshadowed by the first of three releases (my most anticipated of the lot) from Marvel Studios, and the sequel to the most successful gamble Marvel Studios have ever made with superheroes no one has heard of. The loveable misfits that are Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and BABY GROOT are back on the big screen for Volume 2 of their adventures (most likely backed by an incredible 80s soundtrack). The first film I expect to reach a billion dollars in cinema ticket sales this year. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: The Handmaiden, City of Tiny Lights

May

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Top Pick: Alien Covenant (19th May)

The “Alien” series for me has always been hit-and-miss. The first two in the series are movie masterpieces, but all the sequels that have come out after “Aliens” have either been mediocre or utter sh*te. Given the release of the trailer to “Covenant” at the end of 2016, Ridley Scott’s sequel to “Prometheus”, and second prequel to the original Alien series, the footage echoes the original horror and tension that the first film had so masterfully portrayed. Expect gore, screaming, and another gruesome chest bursting scene. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: My Life as a Courgette

June

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Top Pick: Wonder Woman (2nd June)

One of the few great things from last year’s disappointment that was “Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice”, Gal Gadot dons the infamous superhero outfit to play the Amazonian Princess (first appearing in comics in 1941) who goes to help the fight in World War I. Given the trailers that have been released, the visual direction looks stunning and certainly looks like the female superhero movie that the world needs,  given the already extremely male dominated genre. Warner Bros. needs this to be a success to justify their future DC comics superhero movie releases. No pressure then. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: The House

July

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Top Pick: Dunkirk (21st July)

So this was a tough month to choose my top pick as all the films that I have placed as runner ups are worthy for the top position of July for a number of reasons. But any month that has a release from Christopher Nolan will always edge out everything else. Ever since I saw “Memento” nearly 12 years ago, he has gone onto direct some of my favourite movies of all time, so I’m always on high alert for anything Nolan related. Based on the incredible true events of the evacuation of allied soldiers from Dunkirk, France in World War II, expect this to be classic Nolan: epic and needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: The Dark Tower, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes

August

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Top Pick: Baby Driver (11th August)

Oh Edgar Wright. Ever since you created one of the greatest television comedies in the last twenty years in the form of “Spaced”, you have gone on to make classic film after classic film. From zombie masterpiece “Shaun of the Dead” to cult comic book classic “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”, Wright always makes movies that are unique and have his signature eccentric flair. Not much is known about the film other than it being about a young getaway driver trying to leave the life of crime, but Wright has recently revealed that music is the biggest influence of this action thriller, with 35 songs to be played throughout the whole film. God I can’t wait for this. (No trailer released yet)

Runner Up: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Coldest City

September

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Top Pick: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (29th September)

The first Kingsman movie came out of nowhere,  turning out to be a great and funny spy movie with some inspired action sequences (the insane church fight is one of the best choreographed action sequences in recent memory), so I’m excited to see what direction Matthew Vaughan takes this. With Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, and Halle Berry joining the great cast from the first film (Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong), Vaughan is definitely expanding the universe as the Kingsman Secret Service go to America to work with their US counterpart, Statesman, after their fellow neighbours-in-arms are attacked by a criminal mastermind. (No trailer released yet)

Runner Up: Flatliners, It

October

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Top Pick: Blade Runner 2049 (6th October)

Its insane to think that after 35 years (and several hundred versions of Blade Runner) we are finally getting a sequel to one of the greatest science fiction movies ever created. Do I feel a bit worried it might suck? Not.One.Bit. Why? Because Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard, with an amazing cast led by Ryan Gosling, with a screenplay written by one half of the original writing team of the first film, and it’s being directed by Denis Villeneuve who showed with “Arrival” he can do intelligent science fiction. The trailer alone shows they’ve perfectly captured the distinct unique feel that the first film was renowned for. I just hope the score is as mesmerising as Vangelis’. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: Thor: Ragnarok

November

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Top Pick: Justice League (17th November)

Its the biggie of 2017 for superhero movies. Warner Bros are hoping to mirror the success of The Avengers movies with their take on the epic superhero mashup. We will see Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Superman (Henry Cavill) team up to take on Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and his army of Parademons. Its a massive gamble given the critical slating that BvS took in 2016. Its a film that will set up future individual superhero movies. Its a film I am praying turns out to be great. Zach Snyder…please make this as good as Watchmen! (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: Red Sparrow, Paddington 2

December

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Top Pick: Star Wars: Episode VIII (14th December)

I mean…its the sequel to the third-highest grossing movie OF ALL TIME and the next chapter to one of the most successful sagas in movie history. With how The Force Awakens had ended, Rey is now on her journey of learning the teachings of the force and becoming the Jedi she was destined to be. Plus, we will finally get to see Luke Skywalker being a frickin’ Jedi Master!  Its my most anticipated movie of this year, not only because of it being a Star Wars movie, but it will be the final time we will see Princess Leia, a.k.a the legendary Carrie Fisher, to ever grace our screens after her untimely death on Christmas Eve. May the force be with you always…(No trailer released yet)

Runner Up: Coco

Top Ten Films Of 2016

Top 10

2016 did not disappoint with films this year. With the age of binge-watching in full swing, studios are finding it tough to get people into cinema seats as the content, storytelling and originality that is becoming available in platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and premium channels such as HBO and AMC, is surpassing the level of highly-promoted films released in cinemas. We’re even seeing big Hollywood stars venturing more and more into doing a mini series than they would have ten years ago. Yet we are still getting gems released and 2016 had an abundance of them. Here are my top 10 films of 2016 which I can’t stop thinking about. Leave in the comments section below on what your favourite films of 2016 were, and any you feel should’ve made it in my list!
Note: Some of these are yet to be released in the UK but I was fortunate enough to catch them at special screenings this year.

Honourable Mentions: The Revenant, Creed

10. The Nice Guys

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The second best buddy comedy of the year (No. 3 takes the title) is also Shane Black’s best work since 2005’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (sorry guys but Iron Man 3 was average at best). Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling play Healy and March, two private investigators looking into the death of a pornstar, and a missing teenage girl in 1970s sun-soaked, drug-fuelled Los Angeles. Set to an amazing soundtrack, Black’s writing is funny and sharp, delivered perfectly by Crowe’s punch-first-talk-later enforcer, and Gosling’s dim-witted private eye. Who knew they could do comedy? Also, where else will you see Crowe and Gosling having a conversation with a human-sized bumble bee?

Favourite Quote: “So you’re telling me you made a porno where the plot is the point?”

9. Kubo and the Two Strings

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2016 was a “meh” year for animation, with okay sequels in Kung Fu Panda 3 and Finding Dory, and mediocre/watchable releases from DreamWorks and Illumination such as “Trolls” and “The Secret Life of Pets”. But two stood out from the rest. Disney’s “Zootopia” tackled the subject of discrimination and prejudice in the form of animated animals. But it was “Kubo and the Two Strings”, the story of a young Japanese boy on a quest to find a magical suit of armour (with the help of Monkey and Beetle) to defeat The Moon King, which left a longer lasting effect on me. With the right balance of love and darkness, it’s ultimately a tale about what lengths a mother would go to to protect her child. With stellar voice work from Art Parkinson (Kubo), Charlize Theron (Monkey), and Matthew McConaughey (Beetle – standout), Laika studios’ stop-motion animation is a beauty to behold and unlike anything else you’ll see this year.

Favourite Quote: “He looked into my eyes and uttered four simple words. These words changed everything… You are my quest”

8. Captain America: Civil War

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In the last decade alone we’ve had OVER FIFTY superhero movies, with a fifth of them being from the juggernaut that is Marvel Studios. The once formulaic superhero movie plot has become a lot more meatier in terms of character studies, making you as a viewer invest more in these “super” beings but also question the ideals they hold, and there wasn’t any other superhero drama this year that did it better than Civil War (its really Avengers 3). Based loosely on the incredible comic book series, Captain America (Chris Evans) is at odds with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), as Stark believes that The Avengers should be put in check under government law due to the unnecessary human whiplash that occurs whenever they go saving the day. Thus a division occurs within The Avengers. Not as great as The Winter Soldier (still my favourite Marvel movie), but still has moments of pure spectacle (with a scene-stealing Tom Holland as Spider-Man) that fulfils any superhero fans’ heart. The airport scene alone is worth the price of the cinema ticket!

Favourite Quote: “It’s your conscience. We don’t talk a lot these days.”

7. The Hateful Eight

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Ah Mr Tarantino. I have been your follower ever since I first watched “Pulp Fiction” all those years ago. Whenever you release a movie, there isn’t any other way to describe it other than an event and boy was “The Hateful Eight” worth the wait. It was close to not being made at all, as the original script was leaked in 2014 before it went into production. But after doing a live theatre reading of the script with actors who most would end up in the final film, QT changed his mind (thank the lord!) and ended up making this cold, tension filled, three-hour long, western epic. The story of eight shady characters holed up in a cabin whilst a blizzard is happening outside is told in classic Tarantino fashion: non-linear chapters, rhythmic dialogue, a stellar cast, an incredible score by legendary composer Ennio Morricone (his first in 35 years), and blood. A…lot…of…blood.

Favourite Quote: “Move a little strange, you’re gonna get a bullet. Not a warning, not a question…a bullet”

6. The Big Short

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In the months between 2011 and 2012, I did my Masters degree on Global Banking and Finance. Of course, a major chunk of it was dedicated to the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the subprime mortgage crisis, a fascinating insight into the arrogance of banks which led to affecting millions of people all around the world. So when I heard the director of Anchorman was adapting a best-selling book about this subject, with a perfect cast that consisted of Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt, OH GREAT ODIN’S RAVEN did it grab my attention. The subject its dealing with is complex, but Adam McKay makes sure his audience don’t drown in finance jargon, with well-placed cues to explain it to us in the form of celebrities. It is very funny but it also makes sure that the viewers understand that this is no laughing matter, as millions of people did lose their homes because of big banks becoming too greedy for their own good.

Favourite Quote: “If we’re right, people lose homes. People lose jobs. People lose retirement savings, people lose pensions. You know what I hate about f**king banking? It reduces people to numbers. Here’s a number – every 1% unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die, did you know that?”

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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In my glowing review of “Rogue One” which you can read here, I called this “…the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back” and I still support that statement. The journey of Jyn Erso (a perfectly cast Felicity Jones) and a group of rebels who go on to steal the plans to the Death Star is brought to epic, pulse-racing life by director Gareth Edwards. The characters are compelling, with Chirrut and K-2SO as standouts, and the CGI is a technological achievement. But its the final 45 miunte long battle which takes place in both the planet Scarif and space which will be remembered as one of the greatest war sequences shot in film history. Its brutal and relentless, echoing Saving Private Ryan and Platoon. Have I also not mentioned the terrifying return of Darth Vader to our screens as well?

Favourite Quote: “I’m one with the Force. The Force is with me”

4. Arrival

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At the beginning of 2016, I predicted “Rogue One” will definitely be my favourite science fiction film this year. Nine months later, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a few gala screenings at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, and “Arrival” was one of them. Two hours later and an ending that blew my tiny mind, I said to myself “This may be one of the best science fiction films I’ve ever seen”. Based on the novella “Story of your Life” by Ted Chiang, it tells the story of 12 extraterrestrial spaceships (or “shells”) suddenly appearing in random cities around the world. The world doesn’t understand why they are here and whether they are a threat to human kind. The US army hire a professor of linguistics, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, to find a way of communicating with these beings and to help answer these questions. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (who also directed “Sicario” & “Prisoners”, and is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors right now), Villeneuve has created a subtle,  nuanced thinking-man sci-fi film which isn’t really about an alien invasion, but about the power of language and how communication is the most powerful form of action. No wonder I’m so excited to see his Blade Runner sequel next year! But this film wouldn’t have truly reached its heights without Amy Adams. The FIVE-TIME (!) Oscar nominated actress will surely become the SIX-TIME Oscar nominated actress next year, as she is the soul of this film and this really is her most vulnerable performance yet.

Favourite Quote: “If you could see your life from start to finish, would you change things?”

3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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Meet Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a 12-year old Tupac Shakur loving juvenile and orphan, who gets forced by child services to live with his aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her husband Hector (Sam Neill). As the film unravels, Ricky and Uncle Hec find themselves going on the run in the wild New Zealand bush and become part of a national manhunt. This is not only the funniest film of the year, its the best comedy in the last decade. There are endless jokes and quotes in this film that will make you cry with laughter, delivered by the amazing Sam Neill and the revelation that is Julian Dennison. The quick back-and-forth between Ricky and Hector is so wonderful, I can imagine both the actors must’ve found it so hard to keep a straight face when delivering their lines. And man that script. Written and directed by Taika Waititi, with a budget of only $2.5 million, it would be an absolute shame if his screenplay isn’t nominated come Oscar time. No wonder its become the highest grossing New Zealand film ever!

Favourite Quote: “Faulkner is cauc-asian” – well, they got that wrong because you’re obviously white”

2. Manchester by the Sea

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The second of the three films that I attended gala screenings for in this year’s London BFI Film Festival is also the film that made my brother and I, two fully grown adults in three-piece suits cry like babies…i mean cry man tears in a dark cinema. Being released here in the UK on 13th January 2017 (look out for my review around that time), Manchester is a tale about a man who’s brother dies from a long-standing illness and is now forced to take care of his nephew in Manchester, Massachusetts. Whats so striking about this film is how natural the conversations feel between the characters, making you feel so much more empathetic towards them, and adds more depth to the wounds these characters have in them. Beautiful writing and direction from playwright Kenneth Lonergan, with perfect performances from Michelle Williams, who is flawless like she is in all her films, and in his first ever role, Lucas Hedges has stapled himself as a future actor to look out for. But its Casey Affleck’s film, and it is the best performance I have seen all year by any actor or actress. It is moving, nuanaced, subtle and heartbreaking. Affleck wears an armour of pain throughout the film. Pain that I could feel as it was fully subjected to me throughout the running time, and not many actors could do that. Get ready to take tissues with you to watch this film come January.

Favourite Quote: “I said a lot of terrible things to you. My heart was broken, and I know yours is broken, too”

1. La La Land

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Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” was my favourite movie of 2014. I went to its UK premiere at the 2014 BFI London Film Festival and it was something that had captured me by the throat the moment I heard the drum beat in the opening credits. I love that film so much, when the film was released on Blu-ray, I bought a copy for myself and I watched it once everyday for the next seven days. When I first heard Chazelle’s next project was a musical based in LA about an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and a struggling jazz musician (Ryan Gosling), all the way back in 2015, I was counting down the days till the moment I could watch it. How poetic it was that I was able to nab a ticket to the UK premiere at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, two years after seeing Whiplash. I had already heard and read great things about it in other film festivals this was unveiled at so my expectations were high. They were so high, that sense of “Oh God what if this turns out to be terrible?!” was lingering like a leech on my skin. The lights turn down in the cinema hall…the sun-drenched view of LA appears on the gigantic screen…the opening song kicks in and explodes like beautiful fireworks. From that moment on and for the next two hours, I had only one expression on my face: a wide-eyed smile. This film is the definition of joy. The definition of what it feels like to be a dreamer. Anyone can grab their dreams, have their true calling if they never give up. Its a musical masterpiece and a film so needed in a year of so many shocking events that have occurred in 2016. Its a film you want to watch again and again and again. It comes out here in the UK on January 13th 2017, and I can’t wait to write a full review for you and for this definite Best Film winner in next years’ Oscars.

Favourite Quote: “Maybe I’m not good enough!”