I was delighted to hear this cross-genre blend of satire and horror by Jordan Peele which offers a hilarious, but incredibly thought-provoking social commentary on race has been nominated for many awards, including Best Actor for the films lead, British actor Daniel Kaluuya and Best Comedy Picture at this years Golden Globes.
The cleverly written film is a social thriller that acts as a complete contradiction to the American Dream that we are so used to seeing depicted in Hollywood. This stands out as my top pick for 2017 for it’s uniqueness and bravery – taking many risks away from the standard conventions we have been accustomed to expecting from Hollywood.
It's beautifully acted and written, and we watch it through the lens of beautiful cinematography. This film has been hailed a masterpiece and is a favourite amongst critics for wins at this years Oscars for Academy Awards in various categories - and rightly so.
When Lee's brother dies, he reluctantly becomes the legal guardian of his son and is forced to return to his hometown. This film is anything but melodramatic and it is the undertones and naturalism that play a significant part in what makes it so powerful and moving. It's different from the spectacles we often expect from Hollywood. It doesn't preach and although yes, it is deeply moving, it also is very human and relatable with plenty of cleverly embedded pieces of comedy. Leading actor Casey Afflick clearly works well with writer/director Kenneth Lonergan in this film about love, loss and regret - in a nutshell, life.
The 2016 independent British film ‘I Daniel Blake’ by director Ken Loach that was released on DVD in 2017 was the first film I thought worthy of purchasing on DVD in a long time. This film isn’t just a political comment on the state of British society, a benefit system that strips the most vulnerable in the country of their humanity, and growing division in wealth disparity, but a deeply personal story. The film follows Daniel, a 59 year old widow and ex-carpenter, who has been written off work after suffering a heart attack and Katie, a single mum who is rehoused in Newcastle after being made homeless when her London rent was increased. Both are living in extreme poverty and in a gut-wrenching scene, we see the young mum forced to visit a food bank after having her benefits stopped.
Amidst the gripping, raw narrative that is written and acted so authentically, there are many beautiful moments of humour and endearment as we see the two unlikely characters develop a moving, paternal-esque relationship. At times, this is difficult to watch, but this film is a must-watch and I think the most important film to come out of the UK in a long time.
I wanted to love this film before I watched it because as it seemed to be a symbol of the new direction that Hollywood is moving in with leads from two under, and misrepresented demographics, women and ethnic minorities so I was relieved that I was not disappointed.
Just when you thought the chick-flick comedy genre had exhausted all new routes, along came Girls Trip. It has a really fresh modern, millennial feel to it whilst being identifiable to women of all ages and races. It’s hilarious and authentic, giving an honest insight into what really goes on during a girl’s trip and in women's minds. The cast including Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett are charismatic but it is the natural endearing chemistry between this fictional group of friends that is what makes this film so special.
I will not deny that I was sceptical about a Roots remake and asked the same questions I heard many others repeat – ‘do we need another Roots or even any more TV about slavery that perpetuates the same negative stereotypes we have tried to move away from?’ Well, the answer to those questions, after watching the new remake is yes, we did need this revamp of the brutal, raw portrayal of our shameful history. Although we have in many ways moved forward from the Slave Trade that once was, I think it is important to really teach and show in the rawest way possible, however harrowing that might be, exactly happened not only to educate on our history but to address issues regarding race, division and even modern slavery in the world today.
Although the mini-series is inevitably distressing, it is not without moments of relief that really allowed us to connect with the cast and further emphasise with their individual circumstances. These moments were well placed, adding endearment and humour, reminding us how alike we are and provoking much thought. The famous role of Kunte Kinte played this time by Malachi Kirby was played superbly – he portrayed the suppressed yet constant anger with dignity, not only emotionally adopting the role but physically too.
This British television drama series was back for it’s fourth series with Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar returning to their roles and introducing Thandie Newton as the villain of the series (and arguably one of the leading villains on television this year). Back in AC-12, the fictional anti-corruption police unit that over the past four series has seen more drama than most police stations dealing with merely civilian crime.
Each series has been thrilling and gripping, presenting the highest standard of acting and writing that British television has to offer, but it was the new role of DCI Roz Huntley (played by Newton) that really raised the bar for this series. She's a intelligent career woman who seemingly managers a demanding role with motherhood. She's strong but she's cold, calculated and callous female lead, different from many of the female characters we are used to seeing on screen, but why is she this way? Well, I won’t give too much away but I will say that this was unintentionally very fitting to themes that have been prominent this year. As a lover of crime fiction, I have become good at guessing plots and figuring out twists before they unravel but this series had me on the edge of my seat and continually shocked by the turns and surprises the writers created for us.
Detroit (Film - coming soon to DVD)
Starring John Boyega (Star Wars, Imperial Dreams) and Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) and directed by Katherine Bigelow, this film, based on a true story, is another must see. Set amongst the 1967 Detroit riots, the film focuses mainly around the events of one night where heavy-handed (to describe them in nicer-terms) try to crack down on illegal drinking in a motel. Quickly we see that it is not the drinking or shooting of a toy pistol that is prompting their concerns, but it is their racial prejudices that are drives them to their arrests and frankly, illegal and brutal behaviour.
Trophy hunting is the commodified sport for the super rich that this documentary film brings light to, leaving the audience inevitably angry and sickened. That being said, if you haven’t watched this film, you must. Yes, it might not be the most pleasant but it’s necessary. It’s not only shot and executed beautifully, but it raises important questions that we all need to be asking. Trophy is daring and brave, presenting the topic without an obvious solution but is hard-hitting enough to provoke us to find one in 2018.
This adrenaline-filled gangster flick from Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) about a young getaway driver working for an underground crime syndicate was one of my favourite films of 2017 (I even saw it in the cinema twice!)
What is unconventional about Baby Driver is the entire film and all its action is set to the beat of a great soundtrack of classics from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Tarantino fans will adore Baby Driver for its action-packed carnage, likeable yet deplorable and funny characters, and well-placed music score.
A sexy psychological thriller from South Korean director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) and inspired by the Victorian-set novel Fingersmith. The Handmaiden is a visually stunning film, featuring some gorgeous Asian-inspired scenery and settings, and a story full of twists that will keep you guessing right until its climax.
In Japanese-occupied Korea, a conman convinces a poor young girl Sook-hee to assist him in his conspiracy to seduce a rich Japanese heiress Hideko, marry her and then commit her to an asylum to steal her fortune, by making Sook-hee become her handmaiden. However, as Hideko and Sook-hee spend more time together, who will Sook-hee decide to side with?
Christopher Nolan’s epic about the Dunkirk evacuation is not so much a story-driven movie, but an experience to behold that few other films before it has offered.
Shown through the eyes of a select few characters, each playing a different role at Dunkirk, the film has little in the way of character development or plot. But what it gives us is one of the most intense film experiences, watching whether this group of ordinary people will survive to the end of the war. I don’t think a war film has ever so closely made audiences feel like they were actually there, and the ticking clock ever-present throughout the film which ramps up as the danger intensifies truly leaves your heart racing.
This comedy-drama about the real-life relationship between comedian Kumail Nanjani and his now-wife Emily when they first met, and written by the couple, became the surprise critics’ hit of 2017.
A touching, feel-good film, The Big Sick looks at how people can put aside differences and club together under dire circumstances. Already experiencing a soured relationship, when Emily falls ill and is put into a medically induced coma, Kumail meets Emily’s parents for the first time, who don’t take too positively to him. However, as they are forced to spend time together while they watch out for Emily and visit her in hospital, they grow fond of each other in a heart-warming turn of events. The film is also an interesting insight into what life is like for a Muslim family living in America when it focuses on the relations between Kumail and his family, and their reactions finding out he has a white, American girlfriend.
Super hero films are all the rage now, with many new ones coming out each year. But Logan stood out to me as something different. Less about over-the-top action and special effects like the Avengers saga, instead taking a more grown up approach of focusing on its compelling storyline, its characters and the relationships between then.
A spin-off of the X-Men franchise, Logan takes place in a dystopian future. Mutants (people who have developed super-human powers through genetic mutation) have almost died out, but Logan (a mutant known as Wolverine himself, played by Hugh Jackman) discovers a young mutant girl on the run and decides to protect her. The story centres around Logan’s family-like relationship with this young girl, and his former mentor Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who he is caring for since he developed Alzheimer’s, as they attempt to survive in this bleak future.
A Silent Voice (Film)
This animated film from Japan not only features some of the most stunning hand-drawn animation, but also one of the most emotional and mature stories (dealing with complex issues of disability, mental illness and suicide), and realistically human characters I have seen in any animated film. It also boasts a gorgeous, calming soundtrack in keeping with the emotional nature of the film, and gorgeous cinematography.
The story is a truly uplifting and heart-warming tale of redemption. When a boy bullies a girl who joins their school for being deaf, he ends up himself becoming ostracised by his classmates once called out for bullying by the school. As he moves into senior school, he feels extreme guilt for his actions and shuts himself away from others. But he learns that he wants to make up for his past mistakes, and seeks to make things up to the girl, from learning sign language to trying to reunite her with old school friends.