Hello, AccessReelers and a Happy New Year to you and yours. Our Head Honcho, Darran has done it, so now it’s time for me to drop my own Top Ten List of 2017. It was an interesting year where the super hero franchise movies continued to dominate international box office figures; the next chunk of the Star Wars franchise arrived to be greeted by much fan sound and fury; and increasingly, the online subscription services like Netflix tended to be where innovative story-telling and more adult focussed drama was delivered.
Here, at Fortress AccessReel, I am a generalist reviewer and rarely do the blockbusters. I chose my Top Ten from the reviews I wrote for this website in 2017. My methodology for ordering these movies is unimpeachably scientific. If I enjoyed a particular film more than one and less than another, I placed it between those two films. Some of the blurbs below are ripped off from my AccessReel reviews and there is a link back to the original in the entry’s title. That’s how I went about this process, so let’s have a look…
An unexpectedly enjoyable work from actor/director James Franco. Unlike many, I never particularly enjoyed THE ROOM, the “best worst movie” that Franco’s film is based on, but you don’t have to be a fan of the original film to enjoy this meta-response movie. Franco’s adaptation, based on Room actor Greg Sestero’s memoir, ends up being fun, funny and rather charming in a similar category to Tim Burton’s ED WOOD (1994).
Director, editor, cinematographer Steven Soderbergh’s returned from “retirement” with a great heist flick. LOGAN LUCKY has a West Virgina/NASCAR setting and an energetic, funny cast in Riley Keough, Adam Driver and Channing Tatum. Daniel Craig comes along for the ride and reminds us that he can do more than just play James Bond.
Director Doug Liman and writer Gary Spinelli present the infamous real-life Barry Seal. The pilot and CIA drug-runner (played here by Tom Cruise) was continually involved with law and crime. He worked on both sides simultaneously in a twisted and utterly fascinating 1980s version of the American Dream. A top performance from Cruise who doesn’t usually play amoral characters like this one.
The famous World War 2 evacuation of DUNKIRK is realised here by Christopher Nolan in a stripped-back narrative that keeps the audience running as we are swept along by the efforts of Allied soldiers to save themselves from the unseen German forces. Breathtaking in its scope and use of practical sets and effects.
WIND RIVER is Taylor Sheridan’s second feature as a director, however it is his third feature as a screenwriter. He is also responsible for 2015’s SICARIO (directed by Denis Villeneuve) and 2016’s HELL OR HIGH WATER (directed by David Mackenzie). All three movies represent a kind of trilogy that Sheridan has described as his ‘American Frontier’ films. WIND RIVER stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen and is a solidly intense drama; a modern take on the Western.
Recent history is always challenging to adapt to film. The famous 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs was both a media circus and an important US cultural event. Feminism (or Women’s Lib as it was known at the time) was a growing part of the national (and indeed international) conversation. The tennis match brought focus to the discussion and made the subject of female equality even more mainstream. Emma Stone and Steve Carrell do top work embodying their real-life characters. An entertaining two hours at the cinema.
MEAL TICKETS is a documentary that charts the journey of Western Australian rock band The Screwtop Detonators. Shot over ten years by director Mat de Koning, this film begins by telling a familiar story of young men who want to play music and who have an ambition to succeed, but then it goes in unexpected directions. A familiar story told with an extraordinary level of detail and access. My favourite film from the recent wave of Western Australian features.
GET OUT is Jordan Peele’s satirical horror that takes on race in modern-day America. It took Peele from his well-earned position as one half of the popular comic duo Key and Peele and launched him into the position of ground-breaking horror filmmaker. It broke records wherever it screened. The expectation for Peele’s next picture is running high.
Director Pablo Larrain, working from a Noah Oppenheim screenplay, has portrayed the events surrounding the assassination of JFK in Dallas, the subsequent funeral procession and the ceremony at Arlington cemetery. How Jackie lived through this historical tragedy is the heart of the story. Portman’s performance is one of her finest.
Terrence Davies brilliant biography of American poet Emily Dickinson (played by Cynthia Nixon). Dickinson lived in Massachusetts in the mid-1800s and at the time being a woman who was an unmarried writer was a less-than-respectable existence even for a member of a family that had some money and position in society. Posthumously, Dickinson’s poems are now considered among greatest works of American literature. A QUIET PASSION attempts to deal with the contradictions of the small life of a literary giant.
There’s some material to peruse over the Summer holiday. If you’re a Netflixer you might give AMERICAN VANDAL and THE PUNISHER a look. And one I didn’t review—GLOW—is a terrific dramedy about 1980s Women’s professional wrestling, starring COMMUNITY’s Alison Brie and with a breakout performance by co-lead Betty Gilpin. Happy viewing!