I’d never have thought, as I sat in a New York screening room watching Super Dark Times back in September, that it would turn out to be my most popular review of 2017.
Site statistics are a bit like dreams: fascinating and dripping with meaning if they are your own, probably boring as hell for everyone else. And yes this is all about the numbers. Specifically my most popular reviews from 2017.
Reviews of smaller, mid and low budget films, both British and American, do really well over the longer term. My blockbuster reviews perform brightly initially but then tend to burn out in a week until they’re released on VOD (the new Jumanji is an exception, still resolutely smouldering like Dr Bravestone himself).
On a cold December afternoon, under a dull white sky, a bag of weed and a samurai sword leads to death and disaster for a group of teens – setting in motion the terrifying unravelling of one of the young survivors. Set in the Clinton era where the coolest birthday gift is one’s own personal phone line, the film is deliberately positioned before the Columbine shootings, an event seared into America’s psyche.
Wafting around in black mourning dress and black lace bonnet like a gothic beekeeper, Rachel could be victim or murderous temptress.
This is a film of wonderful performances and a did she/didn’t she story that had me on the edge of my seat, along with their rather cavalier attitude to candles when in the presence of muslin drapes and white cotton nighties.
Rachel also makes a lot of tea, which means I’ll always have her back.
Gerard Butler is Dane Jensen, a man married to his job as a headhunter, which means his marriage to Gretchen Mol is collapsing. Then his son develops leukaemia and Jensen has to rethink his priorities while, well, not really rethinking his priorities.
There are a lot of cliches here, though the performances (the cast includes Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina), and the “it’s not battery acid!” blow job scene, manage to lift it.
An unworldly teenager, first (lesbian) love, a frightening past, and newly awakened psychic abilities. Joachim Trier’s Thelma could easily be a cliche-ridden Carrie rip-off, but instead it’s scary and jarring, filled with quiet rage.
Plus Thelma’s dad with a beard in a big jumper, my favourite kind of movie dad.
Set during World War 2, Jessica Chastain is Antonia Zabinska, who owns the Warsaw zoo with her husband. Together they risked their lives to rescue Jewish friends and strangers after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Based on a true story, this movie is at times unbearably moving (the little children being lifted onto the train that will take them and their elderly teacher to the gas chambers of Treblinka will have you sobbing) and at other times rather clunky.
A sparkling sequel, where the bear from darkest Peru finds a book of London which will be the perfect present for Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday. Unfortunately it’s stolen by top actor turned dog food promotor Phoenix Buchanan, who uses the clues within it to try to track down a haul of treasure.
And poor Paddington ends up in jail, where he’s sent to work in the prison laundry and puts a red sock in with the whites.
A young Native American woman is found dead on the Wyoming Wind River Reservation, having run for miles barefoot in the snow after being raped.
Reservation hunter Cory (Jeremy Renner) and FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) have to find her attackers and serve some kind of justice, amid the icily beautiful but bleak Reservation where drug use among young men is rife and prison is a rite of passage for many.
There’s rather a lot of Renner staring enigmatically at the snow, but overall this is a thriller that is taut and moving, if at times very hard to watch.
Trapped in an abusive marriage and an echoey Victorian house on the chilly Northumbrian moors, a teenage bride starts a passionate affair with a servant, an affair which soon leads to murder.
Katherine may be a victim with no way out from her predicament, but her collapse into amorality and killing is comprehensive.
A lush and languid coming of age tale of first love set in Italy, this movie is stunning to look at and beautifully acted though I must admit it rather left me cold in the long run.
Armie Hammer is Oliver, a 24 year old academic from America staying with 16 year old Elio and his family in their Italian summer home, while he helps Elio’s father with research. Elio and Oliver fall in love, and lust, and lots of young beautiful people lie around in 1980s fashions smoking and eating fruit picked straight from the orchard branches.
Our favourite hitman is back, still mourning his wife but at least now he’s got a new pet dog. Spoiler warning, but the dog survives (sorry but I don’t think we could take much more pet death in movies).
When an Italian crime lord visits John demanding payment of a blood oath, or marker, Wick is forced to travel to Rome to kill the man’s sister.
There’s some terrific background on the world of the assassins, including a team of secretaries taking details of contracts and sending them out to hitmen and women around the world. And we also find out more about one of his near-mythical methods of dispatch, death-by-pencil.
Top movie reviews 11 – 20
11 Lost City of Z, 12 Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, 13 Victoria & Abdul, 14 Gifted, 15 T2: Trainspotting, 16 The Hippopotamus, 17 Sweet Virginia, 18 Last Flag Flying, 19 Geostorm, 20 Meyerowitz Stories (New & Selected)
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