Posted in Films of the Year

One Mann’s Movies – The Top Three Turkeys of 2017.

OK, so “Turkey” is putting it a bit strongly. These are my top movie disappointments in the cinema year. Some of these ARE truly awful, but the last one is just plain disappointing given my expectations of the director. 

In no particular order then….

Turkey One: Table 19.

Table 19 posterA film that is supposed to be a comedy but has very few laughs per hour. Most of these come from Stephen Merchant. Worse than that, the film is full of such vindictive and unlikeable characters that if a nuclear blast were to whip through the hotel unexpectedly, then the world would be a better place. 

Hateful.

Turkey Two: Pitch Perfect 3.

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Probably the last film I get to see in 2017 is further away than is imaginable from “A Monster Calls” which was about the first film I saw in 2017. Lazy, witless, plot-less and where even the song and dance numbers lack the verve of the first two films.

A complete waste of celluloid.

Turkey Three: Dunkirk.

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A controversial entry I’m sure! I’ve seen some people name this as their “Film of the Year”. But for me, I just didn’t get it. What should have been an awesome war spectacular with thousands of troops being rescued by hundreds of English boats from the jaws of defeat, went off (for me at least) like a damp squib. “No CGI” was the boast; “no spectacle whatsover” I thought. 

It wasn’t a TERRIBLE film. (Even Harry Styles, in his debut, equipped himself well). If this was some nobody director, I might give it FFf (as I did) and resign it to the forgotten masses of the year with “47 Metres Down”. The reason this makes my turkey list is that this was directed by the great Christopher Nolan – he of “Inception”, “Interstellar” and the great Batman trilogy. And this was supposed to be his opus magnum that he’d been working on for years.

OK… we may need to differ on this one! 


 

Have a very Happy New Year and here’s to a great 2018 at the movies!

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Posted in Films of the Year

One Mann’s Movies – The Best Films of 2017.

OK, it’s that time of year for you lot out there to get really cross with me as I give you my run-down of what I consider to be the best films of 2017 (and your choice isn’t in there!)  

I was going to start this review by commenting that the volume of quality films has been lower this year than in previous years, but in trying to come up with a list of just ten I have had to chop out a whole heap of films that I wanted to get into the list:  “Get Out“; “Lion“; “Hacksaw Ridge“; “Hidden Figures“; “Hell or High Water“; “The Big Sick“; “mother!“; “Blade Runner 2049“; “Thor: Ragnarok“; “Their Finest“.

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Not quite making the cut this year. (And in no particular order).

All are great films, in their own way, that I would gladly settle down to watch of an evening. But a line needs to be drawn and this is my line!


Number 10 – Baby Driver.

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Hmm… well, the recent revelations about the alleged sexual shenanigans of Kevin Spacey have rather taken the edge off this film (the DVD distributors must be fuming) so I thought long and hard about including this in my list at all. But, despite the additional allegations of Spacey bullying his co-stars on set and generally not being a nice person, the movie remains as an excellent piece of escapist entertainment by Edgar Wright, set to a banging soundtrack of rock classics. Based on the proverb that we shouldn’t let one bad apple ruin the whole barrel, I’ve included it as my Number 10 film.

Having watched it again, as a crime-caper the plot is a bit lightweight and the characters a little two-dimensional, but the music-infused car chases, action and humour work to a ‘T’. 

Number 9: Colossal.

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At Number 9, a truly bonkers story of monsters in Seoul and their link to Hathaway’s character in a small US town thousands of miles away. This is just such a surprising film, veering as it does from whimsy to pitch-black comedy/drama. Hathaway is great and Sudeikis shows his acting chops compared to the usual light comedy we are used to seeing him in.  

I suspect this might be a real “Marmite” movie… but it certainly surprised and delighted me.

Number 8: American Made.

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Cruise is not always to everyone’s taste, but here he is exceptional playing the real-life CIA helper (and self-helper) Barry Seal. Directed with great energy by Bourne-director Doug Liman, it’s a roller-coaster of comedic scenes that are both unbelievable AND based on the truth.

The stunning Sarah Wright also takes a special award for the best plane-sex scene of the year!   

Number 7: Manchester By The Sea.

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Manchester by the Sea is slow, superbly acted, gloriously photographed, funny, and utterly devastating. It’s undoubtedly one of the great films of the year, justly earning Casey Affleck his Best Actor Oscar and Kenneth Lonergan his Best Screenplay Oscar. It would perhaps be higher up in my top 10, but it’s one of those films that I think “do I want to see this again?” and then I invariably think of something less heavyweight I’d rather watch. Which is a shame: I must force myself soon. 

Number 6: Miss Sloane.

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In a year championing ‘girl-power’ in the movies (topped off by “The Last Jedi“, which didn’t make my list), this memorable US political thriller grabs my number 6 slot with Jessica Chastain  (“The Martian“, “Interstellar“) playing the most aggressively self-assured woman in the movies in 2017. Chastain has a great supporting cast with John ‘very busy in 2017’ Lithgow, Mark Strong and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Directed by Englishman John Madden and with a whip-smart debut script by Jonathan Perera it’s an exciting rollercoaster of a plot where you don’t see the twists and turns coming. 

Number 5: Logan.

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WHAT??  A Marvel movie makes a One Mann’s Movies Film of the Year? Is the world about to end?  I’ve not been a great fan of Marvel films, but they have rather got their act together this year at the lighter more-comic end of the spectrum, with “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” maintaining the standard of the first film and “Thor: Ragnarok” – one of the best comedy films of the year – nearly making my Top 10.

Here though we head to the other end of the Marvel spectrum with a superbly gritty, dark and ultra-violent X-Men film that just blew me away. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart ably demonstrate what happens when super-heroes age and start to lose control of their super-faculties. Jackman; Stewart; Eriq La Salle; Stephen Merchant: all deliver great ensemble performances with Dafne Keen (to appear in 2018 in the lead role of “Ana” with Andy Garcia) being particularly feral as the young girl with special powers.

Number 4 – War for the Planet of the Apes.

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A real summer blockbuster!  I’ve been a big fan of the Apes reboot, and while number 2 of the series (“Dawn of…“) was a bit of a back-step from the original classic (“Rise of..”) here we came slap bang back into form for a fitting finale to Caesar’s story arc. Some of the scenes in this film… the desolate and abandoned “Holidays are Coming” Coke lorry in the woods for example – stick in the mind. Throw in awesome Andy Serkis mo-cap; an entertaining PoW escape sub-plot; a comic character called Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) who never quite crosses over into ‘Jar Jar’ annoyance-territory; Woody Harrelson as a bonkers bad guy; and with a surprise twist in the denouement, I found this to be 100% entertaining. 

Number 3 – Victoria and Abdul.

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What a national treasure Judi Dench is! Here she reprises her role as Queen Victoria telling a bizarre true story of her shockingly inappropriate relationship with Indian manservant Abdul Kareem (Ali Fazal). Tim Pigott Smith makes his last screen performance as the head of the royal household being prodded on towards dark deeds by the Queen’s concerned son, the Prince of Wales (Eddie Izzard). 

Director Stephen Frears and writer Lee Hall combine to deliver a film full of warmth, comedy, drama and pathos. A delight, especially for older viewers who are not into Marvel or DC action.

Number 2 – A Monster Calls.

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One of the first films I saw in 2017 and a memorable one. J. A. Bayona (whose “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” arrives next summer) delivers a fairy tale with edge about a young boy – Lewis MacDougall in a powerful performance – living in very trying times but visited each night at the same time by a tree monster (Liam Neeson, “Non-Stop“). The film also has a heart-breaking performance by Felicity Jones (“Rogue One“) and a supporting turn by Sigourney Weaver (“Alien”, “Ghostbusters”). 

But it’s in some of the technical categories that the film excels, with outstanding sound design and superbly impressive “impressionist” animations, reminiscent of the “three brothers” animations from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”. The film has won a host of European film awards, but I’d love to see it nominated in the mainstream Oscar and BAFTA awards coming up.

Highly recommended for older kids and adults – but don’t be fooled by the wrapping… it’s definitely not happy material for younger children!  If you don’t have a weep at the end of this one you’re certifiably non-human!

Number 1 – La La Land.

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While “Collosal” and “American Made” might have passed you by, there’s little chance that you are not aware of this one! There’s a phrase that applies here… “Familiarity breeds contempt”. The fact that this film got such Oscar hype (including the most comical Oscar award announcements in history) combined with the fact that my grandson insists on the soundtrack being played EVERY SINGLE TIME we take a car journey means that it has rather over-saturated my consciousness this year. 

But notwithstanding this, if I were to come back to any of the films in this list in 20 years time, this is the one that would still stand out for me. Damien Chazelle delivers a gloriously nostalgic throwback to the heyday of screen musicals with an Oscar-winning Emma Stone and a charismatic Ryan Gosling in fine form together again. In the engine room is the marvellous score – also Oscar winning – by Justin Hurwitz.

This is a good film. The last eight minutes turns it into a great film and for that reason it grabs my top slot of “Film of the Year 2017”. 

 


 

So that’s my pick for 2017. Agree or disagree?  What should have been here?  Please comment!  

Also check out the companion post for my three ‘turkeys’ of the year… one might surprise you! 

Posted in Films of the Year

One Mann’s Movies- The Best Films of 2016

(This is a re-publish of the post made on 31st December, but with a much tightened-up video and the text presentation of the top 10 added).

I’ve gone video for this Top 10 countdown of my Best Films of 2016, but for those who are ‘trailer averse’ a written presentation of the Top 10 is also provided below!

Number 10:  Nerve

nerve-poster“Nerve” is both a teen-flick and – to be honest – a bit of a B-movie, but I really liked it for its energy, its style, its topicality – coming out as it did at the height of the Pokemon Go craze of this summer – and the vivacity of its young leads:  Emma Roberts, niece of Julia Roberts and Dave Franco, younger brother of Tom and James. Remember:  “Snitches get Stitches”!

Number 9:  The Big Short

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Adam McKay’s The Big Short is a real ensemble piece but features some heavyweight star turns in the form of Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale,Steve Carell and Brad Pitt.  Having personally lost a significant amount of money on a failed US property deal in the late noughties, this is a pretty hard film for me to watch, but it’s worth it as it’s done extremely well.  Intelligent and requiring your full attention, this is a film I can watch again and again.

Number 8:  Midnight Special

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At Number 8 is Jeff Nichols’ Sci-Fi film “Midnight Special”.  This might be a bit of a “Marmite” movie in that some may love it and others might hate it, but for me as a thinly veiled tribute to one of my favourite films of all time – “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” – it was mesmerising.  The story of the lead character, played by Michael Shannon, apparently kidnapping a strange, light-sensitive boy from a religious cult was both mysterious and gripping. The script assumes an audience IQ of at least a hundred by only revealing its plot points in stages – a really great screenplay.  With a great supporting cast including Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Sam Shepard this is a great Sci-Fi-cum-Roadtrip movie that is truly memorable.

Number 7 – The Shallows

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At Number 7 – a shark tale.  Like “Midnight Special”, “The Shallows” is a low budget but very tight and well-constructed little film.  Blake Lively who (#sexistbutappreciative) fills out an orange bikini very nicely indeed, plays a surfer babe who gets into trouble a few hundred yards offshore an isolated beach.  Attacked by a very persistent shark, she clings to a rock with the choice of either waiting for high-tide and certain death or swimming for it.  Possibly by virtue of the low budget, the film metes out its special effects frugally focusing more on reaction shots, and that adds greatly to the film’s suspense.  Despite being cursed with a rather lame ending, this was a great premise and an entertaining night out at the flicks.

Number 6 – The Nice Guys

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At my number 6 is an anarchic, violent and at times very rude comedic buddy-movie, “The Nice Guys”.  Russell Crowe would not be a natural choice in a lead comedy role, but here paired with Ryan Gosling the pair make a memorable double-act.  The film also notably features young Australian actress Angourie Rice as Gosling’s* morally centred and very bright daughter Holly who just about steals every scene she’s in. Set in 70’s LA with some really nice period touches, the “Nice Guys” is hilarious in places and seldom have I laughed out loud more in the cinema in 2016 than with this one.

* By the way, I appreciate I incorrectly referenced her as “Crowe’s daughter” in the video.

Number 5 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Making my Number 5 slot is “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, although why they needed to add that suffix to the title is beyond me.  This is a real return to form for Star Wars with Felicity Jones feisty and dynamic as Jyn Erso; a young rebel leader out with a small force to steal the plans of the ‘Death Star’.  Although a little uneven in pace, particularly at the beginning of the film when there is a lot of CGI planet-hopping, the film builds to a memorable and moving finale that is truly Shakespearean in its scope.  I just can’t wait for the sequel!

Number 4 – Nocturnal Animals

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Tom Ford’s second film – “Nocturnal Animals” – is a multi-layered telling of Amy Adam’s fatuous existence as an LA art dealer, shaken to the core when she receives, out of the blue, a cutting manuscript from her ex-husband played by Jake Gyllenhaal.  The cinematography deliciously changes from the cold blue tones of her LA reality to the rosy glow of her past memories of young love through to the harsh tones of the ‘story within the story’ – a truly horrific journey into darkness in the Texan desert.  I’ve seen review comments that this was “over-designed” and “too-perfect”. All I can say to that is that I love perfection!

Number 3 – Room

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Despite having an horrendous trailer that gave far too much away, “Room” was a really special drama concerning a teenage girl who was locked away in ‘Room’ against her will by a Josef Fritzl-style character.  Born into that claustrophobic life is her young son who knows of no other existence.  This was a justifiable Oscar win last year for Brie Larson but also fabulous was Jacob Tremblay as the young boy.  Gripping, moving and really getting to the heart of the damage that these evil people do to whole families, “Room” well deserves its position at my Number 3 spot.

Number 2 – The Girl With All The Gifts

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You might find my Number 2 slot a real surprise:  a Zombie pic! “The Girl With All The Gifts” transcends most of the other dubious flicks in this genre.  A genuinely intelligent treatment of apocalyptic  goings-on building the tension between two forces:  on the one hand the maternal love felt by a teacher, played by Gemma Arterton, for one of her young pupils, played with great style by young Sennia Nanua; on the other hand the desperate search for a cure by a scientist, played by Glenn Close, supported by no-nonsense military man Paddy Considine.  This is a career best for Glenn Close and her final scenes in this film should become a lessen in effective acting. Again done on a shoestring budget – you could actually make FIFTY of this film for the cost of “Batman v Superman” – the director has eked out every cent of that budget onto the screen.  Recommended.

Number 1 – Arrival

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At my Number 1 it’s another Sci-Fi flick, but what a flick!  “Arrival” was a film I went to see without any expectations whatsoever. This film’s trailer suggested that this was going to be another “Close Encounters” meets “Independence Day” wannabe.  I’m normally really critical of trailers that give too much of the plot away, but in this case the trailer gave absolutely nothing away about the fundamental story that lies underneath the alien visitation wrapping.  Central performances by Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner were excellent and the twists when they came were novel and unexpected.  Even the exposure of the aliens was done well, with no need for sniggering at dodgy plastic monsters or fake CGI effects.Director Denis Villeneuve will hopefully now forgive me for leaving his “Sicario” out of my Top 10.  This is a film I expect to do very well at the Oscars in a few month’s time.


So, that’s my eclectic mix of my Top Films of 2016.  Clearly I didn’t get to see more than a fraction of the hundreds of films released in the year (including films like “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and “Anomalisa” which some other reviewers have raved about).  If I didn’t include your personal favourite, then please let me know what I got wrong in the comments section below!

Here’s hoping for another bumper crop of films in 2017!

Posted in Films of the Year

One Mann’s Movies: The Worst of 2015

So how about the festive foul?

Here I reviewed my ‘Best Of’ 2015.  But how about the turkeys?

I guess I should caveat this by saying that although I have an ‘Unlimited’ cinema card, I am sufficiently time-strapped with ‘the day job’ that I don’t get to see every movie at the cinema.  As such, I tend to pre-filter the real dross (though I’m sure “The Fantastic Four” was absolutely lovely!) so my list is composed only of the films I saw.  As such, you might view this as my list of the ‘biggest disappointments’ of 2015.

My top 5 (or rather bottom 5) in reverse order of direness are as follows.  (For each film I have also picked my favourite picture/comedy caption combination!). 

#5 – The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

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Flu jabs had suddenly become unexpectedly popular with men at the local clinic

This might divide opinion, but I found this a tired and flabby reboot of a 60’s TV classic, and one of the summer’s great disappointments. The lovely Alicia Vikander is used as little more than a clothes horse, and the dynamic duo of Arnie Hammer and Henry Cavill lack any form of on-screen chemistry.

#4 – Taken 3

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I will hunt it, I will find it and I will wash the damned contact lens

Liam Neeson sleepwalks through a daft and utterly predictable action film.  Featuring one of the most implausible escapes from an exploding car in cinema history.

#3 – Focus

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Beauty: natural; Make-up: Tania McComas; Hair stylist: Cameron Diaz!

Two directors; half the satisfaction.  A sour and grumpy Will Smith and the lovely Margot Robbie being generally unpleasant to ordinary people.  And with the one genuinely intriguing classy section of the film spoiled by the trailer.  Pointless.

#2 – San Andreas

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The city’s glaziers hadn’t had so much business since Iron Man and Hulk were last in town.

Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson does what every emergency response worker should do when disaster strikes:  he ignores his job responsibilities and goes to look for family needles in a haystack (and of course finds them).  Dodgy effects. Even dodgier 3D. Dire plot. Very few redeeming features.

#1 – Pitch Perfect 2

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Beca had been assured that the toothbrush would be CGI’d in after the ad filming was finished.

Despite being a fan of the original cheese-fest, Elizabeth Bank’s movie dredged the depths of mediocrity and bad taste replacing all that was fun and fanciful in the original movie with lameness:  a collection of ‘Side B’ songs; rampant xenophobia from the contest commentators and Rebel Wilson’s shtick getting progressively more irritating.

Pitch Perfect 3?  Please no.

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Posted in Films of the Year

One Mann’s Movies – The Best of 2015

Lists, lists… nothing but bloody lists.  It’s that time of the year again, and a chance to look back at the films that have thrilled, moved or excited me during the last year.  And then some of the turkeys of the movie season.  While some of these were released in 2014, they only reached my eyes in the cinema during 2015, so they count.

As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so you might not agree with my choices, but that’s the joy of cinema.  And with the benefit of hindsight, some which I rated very highly have slipped in my estimation, while some have stayed in my mind all year and as such deserve a place on the list.

By the way, don’t forget to enter your email address in the field on the home page (“Register here for future Reviews!”) to automatically receive my reviews through 2016.

So, here they are, in best countdown tradition in reverse order.  (For each film I have also picked my favourite picture/comedy caption combination!).  And if you want to see my choice of the festive turkeys of the year, you can find that here.

#10 – Bridge of Spies

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They’d all bought tickets for the U-2 concert months in advance: can you imagine the disappointment?

Spielberg back on top form with a cold-war tale of spy exchanges in an atmospheric and beautifully recreated Berlin.  With Mark Rylance acting the socks off everyone else in the film.

#9 – Max Mad – Fury Road

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The trouble with scantily clad babes is that they NEVER offer to help in the beach tug-of-war contest

George Miller’s insane 2 hours of adrenaline powered mayhem that makes you leave the auditorium feeling like you are smelling of petrol.  Very little plot, almost incomprehensible dialogue, but it just works.

#8 – Carol

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For kids who can now take 36 photos in a single burst, a reminder of how it used to be. Rooney Mara as Therese.

A gorgeously recreated America in the 50’s and a lesbian love story that truly touches the soul. Both Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett should get Oscar nominations for this, with Mara winning.

#7 – Far From the Madding Crowd

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The woman folk were mightily unhappy when Bernard gave up in the middle of the Macarena.

Extremely watchable (unless you are a sheep). A superb retelling of the Thomas Hardy classic in a bucolically photogenic Dorset. I take my (Golden) Cap off to it.

#6 – Birdman

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What?  We’ve run out of Marmite – – AGAIN???

Surreal, quirky, extraordinary.  This WAS a Marmite movie, that some loved and some hated.  But I was in the former camp.  Emma Stone giving a manic and memorable performance.  And I could watch Keaton and Norton’s rehearsal scene – a masterclass in acting about a masterclass in acting – over and over again.

#5 – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

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Hurting way too much to admire the view!

Probably not a film that is going to trouble the Oscars, but just one of the most wholly entertaining action films of the year.  Rebecca Ferguson kicks-ass in an ambiguous good girl/bad girl role and Tom Cruise’s aerobatic stunt makes for one of the most jaw-dropping openers of any film. A guilty pleasure.

#4 – The Martian

After 2 days Watney had decided it was time to ditch Green Flag and try a different recovery organisation.

Ridley Scott’s interplanetary version of Robinson Crusoe using the clever device of Matt Damon’s vlog to avoid the cinematic death-grip of the voiceover.  We learn that potatoes grow well in shit and that if you’re going to take gaffer tape to Mars make sure it’s the REALLY STRONG sort!

#3 – Ex Machina

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After she’d put a thousand cars together, she got the rest of the day off

Unlike the next film in the countdown, a low-key science-fiction classic.  With Force Awakens alumni Domnhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac and the gorgeous Alicia Vikander, Alex Garland’s claustrophobic little tale ticked all my boxes.  It was probably the one film I massively under-rated in my original review.

#2 – Star Wars – The Force Awakens

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Finn and Rey: incredulous at the news that Hollywood could even be considering a “Pitch Perfect 3”.

After all the hype, the reality couldn’t possibly meet the expectation could it?  For me, it did.  J.J. Abrams lovingly created a movie that ‘smells’ of the original trilogy, thankfully obliterating from the memory the lacklustre and CGI-rich prequels. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega excel in their new roles of Rey and Finn with the original stars reprising their roles, all older and wiser and all back in the cast list for 2017’s Star Wars VIII.

#1 – Whiplash

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Andrew left the toilet seat up again

It’s easy when you do one of these lists to overlook the great films early in the year at the expense of the later ones you’ve seen.  But Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is so emotionally powerful in its feral tale of bullying in a music academy  that it breaks through that bias to get my number one slot for the year.  A well-deserved Oscar for J.K. Simmons and a breakout role for Miles Teller.

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