Cape Town – It's that time of the year again when we share our top movies of the year list. (See last year's list here.)
We enlisted our reviewers to choose their top three movies of the year - some flicks were so nice they made the list twice.
Here are our reviewer's top 3 movies of the year:
A last minute addition, obviously, but this was easily my favourite experience at the cinema this year – and that saying something because, in retrospect, it was a quite excellent year for film. One or two very slight issues don't take away from this being everything you could want and more from a major Hollywood blockbuster, a Star Wars film or, really, just a terrific piece of genre filmmaking. Building up on the already impressive work done by JJ Abrams in the Force Awakens, The Last Jedi takes things to new levels with arguably the most emotional and pulse-poundingly thrilling Star Wars movie to date.
After listening to Kumail tell it with his usual warmth and self-deprecating wit on a number of podcasts I listen/ listened to, I had been familiar with Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V Gordon's remarkable true-life love story for a while, but that did nothing to take away from the seemingly endless delights of this semi-fictionalised movie version of it. Told with honesty, humour and charm, and featuring a top-notch cast at the top of their game, The Big Sick proves that there's plenty more life left in the unassuming romantic comedy yet – and that Kumail Nanjiani may just be the unlikely romantic leading man we never knew we needed.
Tempted as I was to go with something like mother! for this spot, I can't help but go super-mainstream once again. Somewhere between Gal Gadot's star-making turn as the title character, the film's ability to capture the magic of Superman: The Movie better than arguably any other superhero movie since (certainly more than the abortive latest attempts at the Man of Steel) and the way that this empowering and uplifting tale of an extraordinary woman bringing light to a darkening world served as the perfect antidote to much of this past year's ugly real-world news, is a movie that felt as timely, as relevant and as good-at-what-it-does as just about any “art-house film” to come out this past year.
Who would have thought that a skit comedy writer could come up with such a nuanced horror? It blends powerful commentary on modern black identity with an internal horror for humanity that is reflected in uncomfortable visuals and superb acting. Horror really has taken it up a notch this year, and between this and the terrifying IT, it was a tough sell for my favourite. Its production house Blumhouse has been doing some great work in the horror genre, but they won’t be able to top this one for a long time.
Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart were finally unleashed to their full acting ability in this dark, R-Rated version of our favourite Wolverine. One of our most serious comic book movies to date, it’s nothing like its R-Rated predecessor Deadpool (even if in real life the actors love to take the mickey out of each other). The fact that this film got no love from the Golden Globes is just a travesty, and I have little hope for the Oscars. A gutwrenching farewell for one of cinema’s most iconic characters, the film was further elevated by a dedicated performance from the young Dafne Keen. It cemented what Deadpool started, and the next X-men movie seems to be continuing on this path of a different kind of superhero movie franchise.
My favourite Afrikaans film of all time, Johnny is nie dood nie was the best local film of the year, using nostalgia for the Afrikaans cultural rebellion and showing how our memories tend to paint pretty pictures of the past as we try to hold on. As the music intertwined with the story, so did my experiences growing up Afrikaans intertwine with the lives of the characters. People with different life experiences may not find the same kind of connection to the film as I did, but on a personal level Johnny is nie dood nie shows a side of Afrikaans that may have gotten lost underneath the bigotry and sins of our past.
Number 1 on my list simply has to be Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver starring Ansel Elgort in the titular role. There’s magic behind the wheel of this flick. It’s a thrilling cinematic experience that steers the viewer into a foot-tapping frenzy. Wright managed to transform even the most mundane of scenes, like Baby buying coffee, into something simply spectacular. A walk down the street becomes a perfectly timed musical masterpiece with layer upon layer of subtleties hidden in shop windows, graffiti and song lyrics. There’s something fresh and extremely energetic about this film that makes it a thrilling ride from start to finish.
This final instalment is a magnificent conclusion to this epic series and a diamond in the Planet of the Apes crown. In this instalment we see a lot less of the humans and the story moves into a darker, post-apocalyptic setting that sees us turning against our own kind. The ape cast have matured and the film has a more subdued and intellectual feel to it. It’s got equal parts brain and brawn – something modern day summer blockbusters lack. The viewer can feel a thin line of tension running throughout the film from the very start. It is strung so tightly that even the tiniest disturbance causes a vibration that grows and finally erupts in a spectacular finale.
Stronger, directed by David Gordon Green, is based on this true-life story of how Boston bombing survivor Jeff Bauman became a symbol of hope in the darkest of times. The film not only explores how Jeff coped with his new disability but also his reluctance to be branded a hero when all he was trying to do was survive. Jake Gyllenhaal takes on the daunting task of portraying Jeff in this heart-breaking biographical drama. He completely transforms on the screen and delivers one of his most powerful performances to date. The film takes the viewer on a gut-wrenching journey that shows the consequences of terrorism, unapologetically.
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut stands out for me, as one of the best movies that I have ever seen. It has every ingredient that is needed to make a cinema masterpiece. From its Golden Globe nominated lead Daniel Kaluuya to the drum-tight script and terrifyingly good editing. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out.
Every few years there’s a comedy that gets everyone talking and rolling in the aisles - Girl’s Trip was that film for 2017. The strong ensemble – with a stand out performance by breakout star Tiffany Haddish - made me flat-out-cackle, so much that I grabbed my sides from laughing too much. What made the flick even better (aside from the laughs) was that it put four black women at the centre of a story which is a rarefied thing in blockbusters. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you’re missing out on a lot of fun.
The only way I can convey the difference between this film and other superhero flicks this year is to say it’s like a comparison between silk and sand paper. This slick and ass-kicking movie is what DC needed to show the world how great it’s cinematic universe can be. Due in no small part to the incredible team of Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot. Here’s hoping 2018 gives us several more female-driven superhero movies.
My number 1 animated flick of 2017 was without a doubt Disney Pixar’s Coco. The bright and colourful animation maintained a top spot at the box office for three weeks in a row and rightly so. Directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina beautifully represented the Mexican culture in every aspect of the film while telling a story that anyone can relate to. With a great cast, amazing music and out of this world animation, Coco ticked all the right boxes and will become a Pixar classic that generations can watch.
Upon meeting Ferdinand, a bull with a big heart who gets mistaken for a massive fighting beast, I instantly connected with him. Weird I know, but this heart-warming adventure not only proves that one should never judge a book by its cover but, even more so, that just because you are born into something, it doesn’t mean that is what you must become. Brilliant casting, a well-deserved Golden Globe nominated theme-song and top-notch cinematography make Ferdinand a great contender in the Animation industry.
It may come as a surprise to see a film as silly as Captain Underpants on a list of top animations for the year but it’s for that exact reason that it is. I loved this animation because it is so silly and funny yet so smart, well put together and convincing. Captain Underpants relishes in joy and silliness and like all kiddie cartoons should it relays a strong message about the balance between fun and responsibility.
I haven’t seen any of the other Thor films so I went to watch this movie without any expectations and boy was I blown away. This is the perfect blockbuster. The film starts off in full throttle and continues this mad pace till the end. It was a thrilling ride that I wasn’t ready to get off from when the movie ended. It has abit of everything; action, drama and oh the comedy. Chris Hemsworth has that dangerous combination of being both easy on the eye and funny which makes him my leading man of the year. Thanks to Taika Waititi’s brilliant direction I have become a full blown Thor fan. When it comes to superhero movies Marvel has set the bar very high for 2018 with this one.
Akin Omotoso’s Vaya garnered critical acclaim when it hit the festival circuit late in 2016. This local drama packs the punches as it explores dark themes within society. The well thought out characters, beautiful cinematography and gripping plot all work together to make this the must-see local movie of the year. It is a thought provoking film that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
After watching Roots I swore off any slave or racially charged films and while this movie was hard to watch at times the beautiful cinematography and the agency of the characters makes this one of my top movies of the year. This film has upped Netflix’s game and has shown everyone that they can play with the big dogs.
(Photos: AP, Warner Bros, Disney, Ster-Kinekor)