It Comes at Night (Trey Edward Shults, USA, 2017)


Suspenseful, eerie and devastating, this post-apocalyptic tale is an intelligent, beautifully shot character study of paranoia and the potential breakdown of the human soul once the devastation of humanity arises and options of survival are limited.  The subtlety of the script and the classy performances throughout elevate the drama to something much poignant and dreadful than many other pieces of its genre and the picture has some kind of strange relevance in today’s society.

Good Time (The Safdie Brothers, USA, 2017)


Robert Pattinson showcases the performance of his career so far in this grim, early-Scorsese-esque crime thriller about a con trying to smuggle his mentally disabled brother out of police custody.  As with their previous film Heaven Knows What, the Safdie Brothers have a unique style of filmmaking, which encompasses a raw docu-drama sensibility mixed with a relentless sense of urgency and panic.  Definitely ones to watch.

Detroit (Kathryn Bigeow, USA, 2017)


Kathryn Bigelow continues to verify her position as one of the best filmmakers working today with a well crafted, beautifully acted drama/horror movie based around the 1967 Detroit riots.  Almost played out like a theatre piece told in real time, the main act and heart of the story is set in one location as corrupt, racist cops prey upon the hotel residents with prejudice, disdain and hatred.  Both John Boyega and Will Poulter showcase their immerse capabilities with the roles of their careers so far.  Oscar glory surely awaits.

War for The Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves, USA, 2017) 


The third and final chapter of the updated Apes Trilogy goes out with a bang and an emotional send off and serves for the most part as a prison escape movie.  Andy Serkis provides his final motion capture performance as Caesar; the CGI is now so realistic that it blows away most other actors currently working today.  The action is relentless and thrilling, the set pieces are shocking and exciting, and the astounding cinematic universe created throughout the trilogy is a magical sight to behold.

Dunkirk  (Christopher Nolan, USA, 2017)


Taken as one giant set piece and a modern spectacle of the cinematic art form, Dunkirk is a huge success.  Yet those going in to expect any well rounded emotional character arcs may be disappointed.  But that wasn’t the point.  The performances are great, the score is sublime and the intensity of the action is staggering.  Just a shame Nolan couldn’t find a better use for Kenneth Branagh than standing at the end of a pier pointing at stuff.

Baby Driver (Edgar Wright, USA, 2017)


Trying hard to be hip doesn’t always work, but Wright’s foray into crime comedy gets the balance just right for the most part, with a cool, entertaining jaunt into the lives of the criminal underworld with a little romance thrown in for good effect.  The musical choices and choreography make the picture stand out as something original and good-natured, and despite the third act getting bogged down by conventionality, it doesn’t really matter as you’re already taken in by its charm.

Logan Lucky (Steven Soderberg, USA, 2017)


Correctly regarded as a Hillbilly Ocean’s Eleven, Lucky Logan works as an irrelevant, fun piece of pulp fiction with whacky characters, an absurd caper plot and a bunch of hickory characters spouting nonsense to each other in North Carolina accents.  The stakes are pretty low and the action and violence is kept in check with the tone, making it almost a family friendly affair.  It won’t blow anybody away with its cinematic ambitions but that was never the point.  A worthy addition to the Soderberg catalogue.

IT (Andy Muschietti, USA, 2017)


The remake of the 1990’s TV miniseries is a mixed bag, yet fun nevertheless.  Pennywise the Clown is the best thing in it, with a creepy, oddly hilarious performance by Bill Skarsgard, who somehow makes the sight of a kid getting his arm ripped off probably more humorous than it’s meant to be.  Yet a couple of the child characters aren’t given enough screen time or depth to make it worthy of greatness and there are too many jump scares rather than creeping tension to really enlist as it as being close to attaining classic status.

Atomic Blonde (David Leitch, USA, 2017)


Charlize Theron is at her best in this racy, fun female Bourne Identity-esque actioner.  Yet unfortunately, the script does not measure up with a messy, nonsensical plot about revenge, double crossing and spies who glare at each other with raised eyebrows whilst sipping gin and tonics inside Russian bars.  Yet there are some quality action sequences and enough entertainment to keep amusements level high.  Shame the writers couldn’t devise a more intriguing storyline.

The Beguiled – (Sophia Coppola, USA, 2017)   


This update of the 1971 Clint Eastwood picture manages to maintain the drama of the original and sets itself up clearly as a film by Coppola in keeping with her previous work.  This time, Colin Farrell portrays the wounded Corporal McBurney, who is taken in by a girls’ school during the Civil War, only to be the catalyst of rage and betrayal between the women tending to him.  It’s an entertaining piece, not magnificent, but engaging enough to keep ahead of the twists and turns the story has to offer.

Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, USA, 2017)   


Oscar winner Patty Jenkins plays it safe with a corporate piece of superhero fluff which, despite some gallant efforts to let it rise above the commonplace comic book drivel (Guardians of the Galaxy, I’m looking at you), in the end does exactly what it says on the tin.  Elements of the movie are fun, Chris Pine saves the majority of the scenes, and you can feel Jenkins’ voice in there somewhere building upon a mythology which has a resonance in today’s society.  But it soon descends into patchy computer generated nonsense with a patronizing message about how Love saves us all.  Wondrously naff.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jon Watts, USA, 2017)


Peter Parker is now a teenager so nerds everywhere can wet their pants in delight as that was apparently what the character should’ve been all along.  That’s great, but sadly this new origins movie from Sony doesn’t really do the character full justice because it forgets to give Peter any depth or purpose and concentrates on ludicrous set pieces and high school backdrops with immature jokes.  Peter argues with bullies, takes down some criminals and Robert Downey Jr pops up now and again to collect his paycheck and fulfil his contractual obligations.  Kids will love it, which is kind of the most important thing, but the annoying subplots and side characters detract from Parker’s story and what really might make him tick.  Also distracting are the clear studio-devised culturally diverse casting decisions, which make the whole movie stand out as an attempt to cash-in by appealing to as many minorities as possible. This is generally a positive concept, but Sony’s clear-cut money making intentions have never been as on the nose as any other picture in recent history.  I look forward to seeing a transsexual Green Goblin in the sequel.

The Big Sick (Michael Showalter, USA, 2017)


Surely the most overrated film of the summer, The Big Sick finds failed stand-up nerd Kumali meeting the love of his life and going through emotional turmoil when she goes into a coma for the rest of the movie.  Despite being billed as a comedy, the picture is distractingly unfunny and so remarkably unrealistic and absurd that it detracts from what is meant to be a good natured romcom into something extremely out-dated and stale.  The chemistry between Kumali and Emily (Zoe Kazan) is so incredibly forced from the start that it’s hard to take any of the plot seriously; even when Emily’s parents (a miscast Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) are told their daughter is in a coma, they react in the same way one would when told their garage roof is leaking and might need replacing.

Alien Covenant (Ridley Scott, USA, 2017)


Ridley Scott rips off Ridley Scott by devising an unimaginative, dour clone of his original masterpiece.  The characters are dumb, one note idiots who despite being in a 2017 movie, make mistakes like they’re in a 1980’s schlock horror B-movie.  There’s even a shower sex scene where the monster attacks a couple while they’re going at it.  And when there’s a scene in a supposed horror movie when Michael Fassbender plays the flute for a good five minutes, you know something might be a little off.  Plus the aliens themselves now look so much like computer game characters, it makes them about as terrifying as The Cookie Monster.  Nice to see James Franco burnt to a crisp though.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Luc Besson, France, 2017)


As a visual piece, Valerian is an impressive project.  Although mostly CGI effects, kudos must be given to the technical team for designing and conceptualising such an immense fantasy world.  Sadly as a film, it fails due to the confusing plot, disjointed set pieces and a style over substance approach, which it can only get away with for so long. By the time the finale approaches, the characters have become so dull and uninteresting that you just want the good guys to lose so you get to go home.

The Bad Batch (Ana Lily Amirpour, USA, 2017)


Following up her critically acclaimed A Girl Walks Home At Night, Amirpour tells the story here of a bunch of cannibals living out in the desert preying on those walking by whenever they get peckish.  The film is well shot and has some fine talent in front of the camera, but the whole thing feels slightly smug and deliberately slow and confusing so it can take the form of ‘art’ and give audience members the chance to discuss it once they leave the screening.  We left the screening and discussed it; we concluded it was pretty crap.

Mother! (Darren Aronofsky, USA, 2017)


The follow up his last potato of a film, Noah, Darren Aronofsky invites us all into his world of clever little analogies about the Bible, wrapped up as a horror movie with an A-list cast.  The camera is fitted onto Jennifer Lawrence’s head for most of the running time, as she shouts at the ever-increasing number of people in her house to leave, time and time again, resulting in some pretentious nonsense involving cast and crew probably under the assumption that they’re making a masterpiece.   The movie equivalent of a buying a Gelson’s chicken, opening it up at home and realizing that it had gone stale several years ago. 

Transformers: The Lost Knight (Michael Bay, USA, 2017)


Ridiculous computer-generated robots fight each other once again while a strangely over-suntanned Mark Wahlberg stands on the sidelines and gasps for nearly three hours.  The only thing which could make this corporate, merchandising trite any worse is if Donald Trump turned up in a cameo.

Written by | David Pope

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