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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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San Diego Comic Con 2017 — Trailer Roundup and Good Stuff

Holy heck there’s a lot of news coming out of Comic Con. It’s lucky Luke Miksa has your back with a roundup of the best stuff.

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Ready Player One

Based on the wildly popular novel by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One is set in a dystopian future where humanity now escapes the now-harsh reality by spending every waking moment in a virtual reality called Oasis; an adventure world filled to the brim with 80’s and 90’s nostalgia. Directed by Steven Spielberg — himself responsible a lot of that nostalgia first-hand — Ready Player One is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated movies of 2018. Between the Iron Giant and the DeLorean time machine, how many Easter eggs can you spot in this trailer alone?

 

Thor: Ragnarok

If you had any reservations at all about the direction Marvel’s Thor universe was headed, this trailer should rectify that. With an inspired choice of director in Taika Waititi, the neon-soaked, synth-laden trailer for Thor: Ragnarok appears to be the absolute business! October can’t arrive soon enough! Let’s have some fun!

 

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The Best Films of 2016

Luke Miksa welcomes 2017 with a look-back at the best cinematic treats of 2016.

I’m back!

Another year full of movies is now behind us. I saw some bad ones, and a whole bunch of mediocre ones. But they will be rightfully ignored, as I focus on the best, the funniest, the most action-packed, and dramatically satisfying films of the year. Let’s focus on the good stuff!

A lot can be said while analysing this list. Three of the top ten spots are owned by Disney (with more just on the outskirts), but I guess that just goes along with Disney’s dominant year at the box office. Another note is that three of my picks (including the top two) would easily pass the Bechdel Test, which is great for the growing diversity in Hollywood.

A lot more made the short-list, but the following class of movies made for a culling not taken lightly (Zootopia was a Disney movie with a Breaking Bad reference, for crying out loud!). Also, let’s collectively pour one out for Rogue One sadly missing the cut — the final 15 minutes were absolute ecstasy for a Star Wars fanatic.

Missed the Cut:

Zootopia, Keanu, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Green Room, Eight Days a Week, Edge of Seventeen, Lights Out

 

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10. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

There weren’t a whole lot of great comedies this year. Only the Key & Peele comedy Keanu came close (very close), but this spot ultimately belongs to the This is Spinal Tap style mockumentary from The Lonely Island, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

Popstar stars Andy Samberg as Connor4Real, a pop superstar in the vein of Justin Beiber, and follows the dramatic shifts in his professional and personal career. If you’re familiar with musical documentaries, you’ll definitely appreciate the subversive humour, but the stand-out is the catchy and hilarious soundtrack, which was to be expected with The Lonely Island calling the shots behind the scenes.

This was not a popular film — a box office disaster, all things considered — but I have the feeling that Popstar is a movie with real legs, destined to become a cult favourite.

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Top 10 James Bond Theme Songs

With the memory of Spectre still fresh, Luke Miksa breaks down his definitive list of Bond tunes.

Spectre, the 24th James Bond film, has been out for a few weeks now to mixed reviews. I personally liked it, despite its flaws, but one thing that disappointed me was the new theme song from Sam Smith, “The Writing’s On The Wall”. This is a track which lacks excitement and is, frankly, just a little bit boring.

Don’t give me that look, Sam Smith, with your George Michael earrings and perfect voice.

Look, it’s definitely not the worst Bond theme ever produced — that honour goes to Madonna‘s “Die Another Day” (yuck!) — and it’s got some nice Bond-esque orchestration, but it is mid-tier in the canon of Bond themes. It’s especially apparent since Spectre is where modern-era Bond finally embraces some of the sillier tropes of the franchise, the song’s lovelorn lyrics simply do not resonate (much like the love story of Spectre itself).

There is a rich history of Bond music ever since that weird calypso version of “Three Blind Mice” from 1962’s Dr. No, so I have scoured the 50-plus year history to present you the Top 10 James Bond Theme Songs:

Note: The classic James Bond Theme is out of the running, because it is ubiquitous with every film. Dr. No, you’re cut.

10. “You Know My Name” Chris Cornell – Casino Royale (2006)

This song fits the era so well. Daniel Craig‘s debut as James Bond in Casino Royale was designed to update the character for modern audiences in a post-Jason Bourne world. As was the style at the time, the Bond franchise was to get its very own “gritty reboot”, highlighting a raw an inexperienced 007 for the very first time.

“You Know My Name” captures that tone perfectly, with classical Bond pomp and circumstance dropped for an appropriately grungy number from Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. This was James Bond, but as you’ve never seen him before. You know my name, indeed.


9. “Nobody Does It Better” Carly Simon – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

A guilty pleasure. At this stage, Roger Moore was halfway through his stint as 007, and the movies themselves had skewed into the quip-laden, ‘wink wink’ nature that was synonymous with his run. “Nobody Does It Better” is one of the more commercially successful Bond songs, and is among singer Carly Simon‘s most popular songs (that aren’t about Warren Beatty).

If we’re talking about bedding babes and thwarting criminal geniuses, it’s true that nobody does it better than James Bond. But The Spy Who Loved Me wound up being Moore’s highest grossing and critically acclaimed film, so really, when it came to making successful movies, nobody did it better. Top marks for confidence.

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San Diego Comic-Con 2015: Just the Important Bits

Luke Miksa's: The Negative Space Bar

Last weekend was the annual San Diego Comic-Con, which is increasingly less about comics and more about movie and TV studios pushing their slate of upcoming projects, while giving fans a chance to see their favourite actors and film-makers in-person at HUGE panel events. The big news for 2015 was abundant, so I picked a few of the tastiest morsels to focus on:

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

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The biggest buzz of San Diego Comic-Con this year surely came from Hall H during the much-anticipated Star Wars panel. With practically everybody in attendance — including wheeling old old-timers Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and post plane crash Harrison Ford — all cast and crew involved shared an evident enthusiasm for the project which infected the packed hall. While they didn’t reveal a new trailer, the following behind-the-scenes video actually does a better job at rekindling fond memories and selling the movie more than a new trailer ever could.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens makes its long-awaited debut this December.

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Get in the Bin!: The Localised Product Placement in San Andreas

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Product placement is a long, rocky bridge to navigate. It generally pays for a large portion of a film’s production budget, therefore it is a necessary evil. You can only hope that the product placement is subtle and natural to the story being told. Is someone in a movie using an Apple iPhone, using a Dell laptop or wearing Nike shoes? That’s okay, as these brands are a part of our everyday lives as well.

Award: Converse All-Stars Vintage 2004I even have an award I give out for my movie reviews for bad product placement. It is based on an early scene from the Will Smith movie i,Robot where Smith’s character fetishises over his ‘vintage’ (vintage as the movie was set in the future, but the sneakers were currently available at all major stockists) Converse sneakers. The dialogue was clunky, and the product shilling was apparent, and it is these things that drive a viewer directly out of the movie-going experience. It’s reverse movie-magic.

Bad product placement sticks out as it actually looks like an advertisement mid-movie as opposed to harmonious integration. Wayne’s World perfectly skewers the perceived product placement faux pas by tackling it with comic effect (and no doubt paying some bills at the same time):

It’s up to the filmmakers to not throw in brands so gratuitously that it affects the viewing experience of the audience. Michael Bay can’t do this, and he’s the prime example but he’s not alone.

This is the scene!

This is the scene!

This brings me to the recently released disaster movie starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, San Andreas. Without getting into the plot too much, Rocky is an air rescue pilot who finds himself swept up in the middle of an massive earthquake that devastates many Californian cities based on the San Andreas Fault line. There is a scene where Johnson and his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) crash-land a helicopter into an outdoor goods store. Upon leaving the store we get a hero shot of Johnson exiting the flaming wreck to reveal the product placement that caused my neck to whiplash due to the speed of the double-take: that outdoor goods store was Australian retail chain Ray’s Outdoors. (more…)

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