While we endeavored to review as many releases as possible over 2017, and we certainly gave it a good effort, a couple of noteworthy films fell by the wayside. While it’s a new year we still felt many of these titles deserved some kind of write-up, so we came up with the idea of this article where we could give a brief review and rating. Please note that this is a list of films we just feel are worth talking about, it’s not a best or worst films list.
Taylor Sheridan has scored a hat-trick and has now proven himself just as capable behind the camera as he is with a pen. Yet again Sheridan has written a thrilling crimes saga in the backdrop of another Neo-Western landscape. The freezing landscape of Wyoming is just as likely to kill you as the isolation, so when a body of a young girl shows up outside an Indian land reservation, the idea of justice is thin. Wind River is as dreary and preachy as both Sicario and Hell or High Water where characters are just looking to survive in their dying land. Jeremy Renner delivers his best performance yet as the grizzled but surprisingly open and wounded hunter, Cory Lambert.
Rating: 4.25 / 5 Guinness
Brawl in Cell Block 99
S.Craig Zahler’s directorial debut, Bone Tomahawk, was a brutal but superbly acted western that embraced element s of horror with an exploitation film vibe. Brawl in Cell Block 99 embraces this exploitation film vibe and delivers a gruesome but thrilling prison thriller that is not for the faint of heart. Vince Vaughn is reinvented as a towering force of nature, a living embodiment of blunt force trauma with a silent but intimidating presence. It’s a far cry from his comedy roles and a welcome step away7 from a genre which was happy to typecast him. Brawl in Cell Block 99 is another quality film from Zahler who seems to be more than happy to revive the exploitation genre but with a touch of panache.
Rating: 3.75 / 5 Guinness
XXX: The Return of Xander Cage
From the opening scene where an obvious stunt double for Vin Diesel is ice-skating through a forest and switches to a skateboard for a sequence that takes forever, I knew I was in for a bumpy ride. The XXX films have always been pretty naff and purposely over-the-top but The Return of Xander Cage transcends dumb action movie into something far more stupid, something almost insulting to one’s intelligence. I rather like Vin Diesel, the man can act when he wants and has invested his own money to appease the fans of the Riddick franchise, a feat for which I give him a lot of respect. But this film comes across as a vanity project turned up to eleven.
Rating: 1 / 5 Guinness
Dee Rees’ Mudbound is an epic tale of misery in the South. It tells the story of two families the McAllans and the Jacksons. The McAllans are a white family from a privileged background who are forced to live off the land while the Jacksons, a black family, are the McAllans tenants who are also farmers. Over the course of the film, both families struggle through their own trials and tribulations as certain relationships become strained and others lead to friendship. It’s a grand tale which is fully aware of it’s setting, racist as fuck Mississipi, and it sports a fine ensemble of actors giving standout performances. It’s a long-winded film that takes it’s time setting pieces in place but the pay off is more than worth the wait.
Rating: 4.25 / 5 Guinness
Shin Godzilla has 80% of its runtime take place in boardrooms as government officials, scientists and engineers brainstorm how to deal with the issue of the big man arriving on their doorstep and yet it’s my favourite Godzilla yet. It’s such a relief to see a film logically work around the issue that’s been done to death. No superweapon or Mechagodzilla saves the day but rather a healthy serving of problem-solving. It’s a superb reimagining of the titular monster who’s brought back to his antagonistic roots.
Rating: 4 / 5 Guinness
My favourite of the two hipster ghost films released last year, the other being A Ghost Story, Personal Shopper was a brooding tale which goes on an unexpected tangent and delves into an interesting mystery that both unsettles and intrigues. Kirsten Stewart is wonderful as the mopey and nihilistic medium trying to get closure for her brother’s death and bemoan every aspect of her pretty great job. The film certainly has an artsy, hipster vibe that will put many off but it’s the unfamiliar road it takes in the second half that won me over.
Rating: 4 / 5 Guinness
Jawbone fell just short of making our top 10 list for 2017. Cut from the same cloth of hard-hitting British dramas such as Nil by Mouth and The War Zone, Jawbone follows Jimmy a former amateur boxing champ hitting hard times. Jimmy is a raging alcoholic and on the verge of being evicted from his childhood flat. Jimmy finds solace in his old boxing gym but soon finds himself strapped for cash so signs up for an unlicensed boxing match. Jawbone is a powerful and moving film that follows a truly tragic figure. Ray Winston, Michael Smiley and writer/director/leading man, Johnny Harris are all wonderful. It’s the kind of acting where a look or a glance tells a thousand words.
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Guinness
Fist Fight takes the special title of the only film last year I turned off. I was perhaps thirty minutes into the film when I realized I hadn’t laughed once and had no actual interest in where the story was going. While I enjoy both leads in other projects they have worked on, here their characters were both awful and in no way relatable. I wouldn’t call it the worst film I saw as I kind of eliminated its chances of taking that title but my god was it mind-numbingly disinteresting and offensively unfunny.
Rating: – / 5 Guinness