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The Best Films of 2017

Fashionably late! Luke Miksa presents his top ten movies of 2017.
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Reliably late as always (Sorry I’m Late is the name), it’s that time of the year to once again compile the best movies released in 2017.

I don’t want to spend much time on caveats, but it should go without saying that I clearly didn’t have a chance to see everything, but holy heck I tried my darndest!

It’s also worth mentioning the odd release schedules for Australian cinemas. Down under, we often get the big blockbusters the same time as the US market (sometimes even a day or two earlier due to weird time zone stuff), but the smaller releases are all over the place. For example, La La Land was technically a 2016 release in the US, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t hit our shores until 2017 (and I delayed viewing it until February 2018, and I don’t kid you when I say that if I had seen it in either 2016 or 2017 that it may have topped either list. I love La La Land so much).

But anyway, this is my house and these are my rules. Let’s begin.

Missed the Cut:

Hidden Figures, Kong: Skull Island, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Lego Batman Movie, Dunkirk, Okja, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton

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10. John Wick: Chapter 2

John Wick has a special place in my heart (it did make my list of 2014, after all), so word of a sequel had me plenty excited. More badass Keanu Reeves! More headshots! More close-quarter skirmishes! This is a burgeoning franchise I can totally get behind.

Little did I know of the immense universe building to happen in John Wick: Chapter 2. Not content with simply providing a unique, adrenaline filled world of gun-play and martial arts, returning director and former stuntman Chad Stahelski builds upon a community of secret assassins with a distinct moral code. Combine the returning cast with a strong ensemble of new players, and John Wick: Chapter 2 is about as much fun as you can have with an action movie.

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9. Baby Driver

Edgar Wright is one of the best filmmakers in the world. His Cornetto Trilogy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are iconic, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World is totally underrated and a personal favourite.

Baby Driver is a kinetic caper, starring Ansel Elgort as Baby, a supremely skilled driver under the payroll of crime kingpin Doc (creepo Kevin Spacey), who uses his talents behind the wheel to ferry a rotating crew of robbers (including Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm). Baby suffers from tinnitus, thus is always listening to music through an iPod. And here lies the genius of Wright, as Baby’s playlists are the soundtrack of the film, and the film’s stunt-driving and action scenes are all set in time to the music. It’s a musical with stunts instead of dancing! Baby Driver is so much fun and adds another winner to Edgar Wright’s impressive resume.

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8. The Disaster Artist

It’s no secret that I have held trash masterpiece The Room in high regard for a solid decade. There’s nothing better than a genuinely terrible film (sorry Sharknado, you damn try-hard), and Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is the pinnacle garbage cinema — holding the upper-echelons aloft with other ‘classics’ such as Plan 9 From Outer Space, Birdemic, and The Miami Connection.

The Disaster Artist is based on the book of the same name, written by actor Greg Sestero chronicling the making of The Room. Directed by and starring James Franco as the eccentric Tommy Wiseau, The Disaster Artist isn’t very deep — and I do wonder how it plays for an audience unfamiliar with the source material — but as someone who has sat down to inflict The Room upon myself more times than I care to express, I found The Disaster Artist a fascinating look inside the mind of a fascinating man with a fascinating vision (despite a fascinating lack of filmmaking talent).

For fans of The Room, The Disaster Artist is a no-brainer. For non-fans, I encourage you to check out both, but keep in mind that The Disaster Artist is about a bad movie… The Room is just bad.

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7. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

How polarising was Star Wars: The Last Jedi? It’s seems impossible to not have a strong opinion either way on the seventh instalment of the Star Wars saga. There can be many reasons for this, but to what I can compute (and believe me, I spent a lot of time scouring message boards and comment sections. I have seen the devil, my friends. Pray for Mojo), director Rian Johnson took some bold creative chances that I applaud, but have not been as popular within a certain sect of hardcore Star Wars fans.

And I don’t really understand all the hate — and man alive, it’s the most venomous, vitriolic hate imaginable — because bold creative choices lead to interesting films. I’m happy to see the characterisation of Luke Skywalker moulded into something different, as well as some cheeky narrative curve balls. What do you want, a predictable, paint-by-numbers movie? Didn’t these same nutters complain that The Force Awakens was too similar to the OG Star Wars? Get in the bin with all that bulldust! The Last Jedi is rad and is set for an enduring legacy.

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6. Thor: Ragnarok

If you were to ask which upcoming film would be the funniest comedy of the year, never in a million years would I have guessed it would be Thor: Ragnarok. But here we are, and Thor: Ragnarok was the funniest comedy of 2017. You read that right, Thor: Ragnarok is indeed a comedy, albeit a high-concept, superhero/fantasy/action comedy.

And we have director Taika Waititi to thank for that; bringing his comedic sensibilities from What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (a film which made the cut for 2016) into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And it was a solid plan. Let’s face it, I doubt anybody would be naming either previous Thor film as their favourite from the MCU, despite the endless appeal of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. Injecting the Thor franchise with a liberal dose of comedy and shying away from the regal earnestness of earlier encounters injected a potentially stagnant franchise with new life.

So come for Thor, but please, stay for Korg: my new favourite character in the entire canon of Marvel movies. Piss off ghost!

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5. Coco

In recent years, the once impossibly dependable Pixar Animation Studios has finally shown weakness with a few sub-par theatrical efforts (Like, they should’ve called it The BAD Dinosaur, amirite? lol high five!). The Christmas release of Coco saw Pixar with a tremendous return to form with a beautiful story about family and legacy, set in Mexico during the Dia de Muertos celebrations.

With a fantastic soundtrack, gorgeous ambient visuals, and the touching story of Miguel (voiced by young talent Anthony Gonzalez) following his dreams and discovering who he was meant to be, Coco is about legacy and family. Even when the location changes to the Land of the Dead, it never becomes too dark to alienate the core audience: children. There are plenty of kids movies out there that are simple cash grabs (kids movies are big money), with nothing to offer beyond basic surface-level entertainment. Pixar have perfected the art of animation, delivering a film for the whole family with plenty of depth and plenty of heart.

If you choose to take your kids to see an animation such as The Emoji Movie over an original, smart animated film like Coco, you should be reported for child abuse. Think of the children!

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4. Blade Runner 2049

Talk about big shoes to fill. Ridley Scott‘s 1982 neo-noir film Blade Runner is a bona fide science fiction classic, inspiring many films in the process. But if any working filmmaker can match or even surpass the original, director Denis Villeneuve has definitely got the pedigree with films such as Sicario and Arrival on the resume (the latter topping my ‘best of’ list last year).

Blade Runner 2049 takes place 30 years after the original, and follows the same cyberpunk themes set up with the original, including how humans interact with future technology and the true meaning of being human. Ryan Gosling plays new character K, and Harrison Ford returns to reprise his role as Deckard, a return which narratively plays as a surprise appearance well into the film’s run-time, so it’s a shame the marketing machine had to go ahead and ruin that one.

At 163 minutes, it may be a little long for some tastes — I prefer the term ‘deliberately paced’ — but there’s no denying that Blade Runner 2049 is one of the most visually stunning movies released last year, perhaps the last decade.

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3. It

It’s relatively hard to make a special horror movie these days, as there is a lot of garbage churned out for a quick buck. For a period of time, the same could be said of Stephen King adaptations. While there are a few exceptions, many King adaptations have varied from cheap schlock to outright unwatchable rubbish (as the mini-series fad of the early-to-mid 90’s can attest.)

But along comes director Andy Muschietti‘s adaptation of King’s 1,100-page epic horror tale It — the tale of a murderous, supernatural clown and the powerful bonds of friendship which can overcome It. Muschietti skillfully presents the twisted evil-incarnate in Pennywise the Clown (portrayed by a magnetic Bill Skarsgard) with a perfect blend of sly wit and palpable malevolence, and Pennywise fills the film with a constant sense of unease and some neat jump-scares.

And it’s a scary film for sure, but the main draw of It is the chemistry of our main group of characters: The Losers Club. Not since Stand By Me has a Stephen King adaptation so successfully captured the spirit and coming-of-age camaraderie. All of the young actors are fantastic in their roles and extremely likeable.

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2. Logan

Despite nearly a dozen films released over the course of two decades, I don’t think anybody would be labelling anything in Fox’s X-Men movie franchise as classics. X-Men and and X-Men: First Class are possibly the best of the bunch, and they’re pretty good, but classic is a stretch. Maybe that’s what makes Logan so remarkable. Director James Mangold (The Wolverine) returns to helm Hugh Jackman‘s swansong as the titular character Logan — The Wolverine — and completely subverts an entire genre in the process.

The first thing that stands out with Logan is the angry, gritty realism. And I’m not talking about a Zack Snyder version of gritty — PG violence with no humour and the colours muted — I’m talking about a raw, grounded, drama featuring an ageing mutant berzerker. Hugh Jackman, in his ninth and final outing as the character, plays a more jaded and grizzled version of Wolverine than ever before. For the first time, Jackman gets to play Wolverine within a hard R rating, which under Mangold’s direction just seems appropriate instead of gratuitous.

Logan is the perfect farewell to a character that has been around since 2000. Just don’t bring your kids (seriously, my screening was full of kids).

And if you’re feeling adventurous, the black and white cut of the film, Logan Noir, is a fantastic alternative experience.

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1. Get Out

This was actually a clear winner for me this year. Get Out, the directorial debut of Jordan Peele — one half of the famous Key & Peele comedy duo — is no comedy. Peele has left the comedy behind, instead crafting a film with a deft mix of horror, mystery, and cultural satire. It’s pretty hard to describe Get Out without revealing too much, as this is the kind of film that’s best enjoyed with an open mind and a fresh outlook.

The performances across the board are sensational, but special mention goes to Daniel Kaluuya playing main character Chris. As the audience and Chris go further down the rabbit hole, Kaluuya’s performance keeps the film on-track, even when the narrative goes off the rails. The best protagonists are the ones that you can’t help but root for, and Kaluuya’s easy-going reliability is perfect for a thriller such as this.

I won’t say any more (you’re welcome), but Get Out can’t be recommended enough. It’s an instant classic with plenty of depth which rewards repeat viewings. Make it happen!

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Agree or disagree? Tell me in the comments below or let me know on that social media! You can find Luke on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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