The Best Of…2017

We’ve had a year of truly magnificent movies. From science fiction to romantic dramas, we’ve had such excellent films that have captured our imagination, and pushed our cinematic experience further and further beyond.

We Make Movies On Weekends, we’ve gathered up some of our favourites. Here are our best:

Sami Blood
by Larry Oliver

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This year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival showcased a number of impressive feature debuts. Best of these was Sami Blood, a Swedish film from Sami-born writer-director Amanda Kernell about an old woman (Maj-Doris Rimpi) who has for years denied her Sami heritage but returns to the community for her sister’s funeral and is troubled by memories of her childhood when the Sami were laughed at by local boys, studied for their physiognomy and offered limited employment opportunities. 14- year old Elle-Marja (Lene Cecilia Sparrok) rebels!

The drama is compelling and heartbreaking and speaks to any immigrant group from an underdeveloped community caught between the practices of their world and the prejudices of ours. The film receives a welcome London screening in January at the Cine Lumiere in South Kensington.

Band Aid 
by Larry Oliver

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If you can’t talk through your differences, maybe you can sing through them. This is the premise of actress turned writer-director Zoe Lister-Jones’ Band Aid.Childless couple Anna (Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) take up kiddie musical instruments at a children’s party and then get inspired. What their band, the Dirty Dishes produces isn’t exactly ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ but delivers high on the chuckle-o-meter.

The source of their distemper is poignantly explored and the film features the most sympathetic parent this side of Michael Stuhlbarg as well as another oddball turn from Fred Armisen as Dave, as their neighbour, former sex-addict Dave. Sadly only available for streaming, the fate of all too many films from female directors.

Call Me By Your Name 
by Charlotte Sometimes

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First love is the most wondrously awful rite of passage all of us go through – something perfectly translated to the big screen with Call Me By Your Name. The extraordinary highs and brutal lows that accompany that very first ride on the rollercoaster of love – they’re all here, shown not told.

Its with every look, move and gesture that the central love story plays out; accompanied by an exquisite score packed full of yearning. Love has never looked or felt this bad and good. Expect to reach the final credits in a state of all-consuming sobbing….

Paddington 2
by Jo Johnstone

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I have to admit that when Paddington was announced as a live action film back in 2014, I had my doubts: How could it work and would it stay faithful to Michael Bond’s beloved books? Luckily, the original film was a warm, funny, playful and tender look at the talking Peruvian Bear taken in by the Brown family in London.

Despite my love for the original, a sequel also had me worried. Could it compare to such an instant family classic? Yes, it could and, frankly, the second instalment surpasses its predecessor.

Writer and director Paul King, and producer David Heyman, brought not only the young bear and his family to life, but they gave us a glowing and charming view of the way London really should be: A large community that is balled over by the kind-hearted and innocent bear. It gives us a world we love spending time in. Able to alter the mood and morals of anywhere he goes and anyone he meets.

Voiced tenderly by Ben Whishaw, with incredible support from the likes of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters and a show stealing villain in Hugh Grant, Paddington 2 is everything family entertainment and British film should and can be. With the same team on board, I hope to see many more adventures for Paddington and his family.

Moonlight
by Jo Johnstone

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With all the incredible films that have been released this year, there is no doubt about which has touched me the most. Barry Jenkin’s moving, beautiful, brutal, and redeeming picture of a young boy’s journey into adulthood has captured a mood, a tone, and an area of film making that is not often explored. Moonlight was released early in the year and the film’s popularity, but more importantly, its impact, cannot be questioned. Gay love stories may finally be getting the films they deserve but here,  love, loss, neglect, sexuality, bullying, and race are all examined in three narratives of its lead character Chiron.

With three actors playing one role, the film could feel fractured but director Jenkins and writer Tarell Alvin McCraney have crafted an exquisite, flowing tale where we watch a boy turn into a man before our eyes. The talent is just as brilliant on screen with Naomie Harris and Academy Award Winner Mahershala Ali giving career bests as drug addled other and mentor to the young boy in need.

What strikes me the most about Moonlight, apart from beautiful visuals, incredible acting, and a brilliant narrative, is that Jenkins creates a world with harsh truths but hope in the distance. Like its urban Miami setting, the beautiful beach and sea surround the rough inner city and there is light if the characters can just reach it. Here is a film that film lovers and critics will still be talking about in thirty years and strangely, it may even be more relevant in the future. A true classic and a beautiful film.

Blade Runner 2049
by Simão Vaz

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Bladerunner 2049 has no reason to exist, it’s the sequel of a 35 year old box office disaster that even today bit many people heard of or care about, and yet, 2049 was able to honour Ridley Scott’s classic whilst treading new ground in a sci-fi universe that is still one of the most interesting ever created, and one that seems more possible with each passing day.

Logan
by Simão Vaz

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We were spoiled in 2017, as the first superhero film of the year was also the best. Logan sacrifices a higher budget in favour of telling a more personal story, bordering on a character piece, and distances itself from all the previous X-men films, setting itself free to be the best film it can be. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart both deliver career-best performances, but its newcomer Dafne Keen that really steals the film with a young character that, were not for the Disney/Fox merge, could lead another female superhero to the front line of pop culture.

Get Out
by Alli Kett

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Get Out was the horror film of 2017 that no one saw coming. Writer & directorJordan Peele, with his film ,delivered a tightly scripted thriller that cleverly examined everyday racism through the lens of a black boyfriend meeting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time. Living deep in rich, pretentious white country, the family’s initial welcome (“Obama was an excellent President” and “I have black friends”) is soon revealed to be the creepiest cultural appropriation possible.

An excellent cast delivers a clever and culturally observant script. Daniel Kaluuya as our main character, is brilliant, his experiences run the acting gamut and is worth watching out for. LilRel Howery provides key comic relief. Get Out had the audience gasping in surprise and fright. Funny, riddled with tension, and thought provoking, Get Out has it all

Battle of the Sexes
by Robbie Jones

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I am not a sports person; all my life it has been the most uninteresting thing in the world to me. But I have three in particular that bore me the most: Cricket, golf and tennis, in no particular order. Saying that, I love sports movies, and I truly cannot believe that one of the most intense things I saw in cinema this year was a tennis match in Battle of the Sexes. Following player Billie Jean King’s (Emma Stone) fight for equality in tennis and her titular match against Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), Battle of the Sexes is something I can only describe as pure elation.

Carell is entertaining, but it’s entirely Stone’s show as she offers the most intimate, determined and tender performance of her career. Sexism in just about any field is a subject that we always think we know everything there is know about, until a film like this comes out and makes you say “Christ, I didn’t know it was that bad”. It’s an important and educational film that offers so much entertainment, so much passion and just a wonderful experience overall.

Dunkirk
by Robbie Jones

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As far as cinematic experiences are concerned, there was none more exhilarating for me this year than Dunkirk ; a complete masterclass in technical achievement, Dunkirk is a visceral and relentless approach to WWII which doesn’t offer a lot in the way of character development – Though that certainly isn’t a bad thing – but does offer an intense and melancholic experience.

The three story lines that take place simultaneously are beautifully crafted and pull no punches. All the performances are excellent but, and I know this will sound odd, none is better than that of Tom Hardy’s. The beloved Brit has very little dialogue and spends the near entirety of the film sat in spitfire cockpit, but the emotion and determination he conveys with his eyes alone is mesmerising, and solidifies his place as one of today’s best actors. Dunkirk is a true cinematic war experience that stands out as one of the best in Christopher Nolan’s filmography.

God’s Own Country
by Sarah Cook

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Francis Lee’s directorial debut is a stunnineg and passionate film that surpassed all expectations. Starring Josh O’Connor and Alex Sacareanu, the film revolves around despondent young farmer Johnny who tends to his father’s farm as well as is ailing father. When they hire Romanian farm-worker Gheorghe, Johnny finds intimacy and love within the new arrival. The lead performers are exquisite and tremendous together, giving us a glorious and tender romance that is strife with acceptance and understanding. Lee’s backdrop of Yorkshire is a beautiful one that enhances the pair’s love.

Elle
by Sarah Cook

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Paul Verheoven’s deeply dark, humorous, and fiercely brilliant Elle was a shocking yet ingenious film. With Isabelle Huppert in the leading role, the film revolves around a rape victim who hunts down her masked assailent using increasingly disturbing psychological tricks. The mystery of the film, the impact of the act, and the unravelling of the film all collide in this compelling way. Though there are scenes of graphic sexual violence, Verheoven never exploits the assault and, instead, showcases a different impact  on a victim such as Elle. Huppert excels in this role, combining the terror, the power, and the sexuality of the woman in a truly remarkable, award-winning performance.

The Transfiguration
by Sarah Cook

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The city-scape of New York plays as an unusual Gothic backdrop in Robert O’Shea poetic urban tale The Transfiguration. The film revolves around Milo who believes himself to be a vampire and has a certain set of rules to abide to stop him from killing innocent people. When he comes across the bullied Sophie, his plans start to unravel. The quiet and unnerving film of a twisted imagination living amongst real life monsters is a stirring and emotive film sends chills down you spin. Lead actor Eric Ruffin is captivating as Milo, a boy trying to fit himself into a mystical world.


What was your favourite film of 2017? 

The Best Performances of 2017

2017 was a pretty stellar year for films; the good outweighed the bad ten fold, and at the heart of these brilliant pictures were equally brilliant actors bringing their characters to life for us to behold. So it’s time that we dive into the individuals who lit up the screen in UK cinemas this year.

Honourable mentions: Michelle Williams in Manchester by the Sea, Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick, Jamie Bell in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman, Dave Franco in The Disaster Artist, and Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, among many others.

Adam Driver – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
by Robbie Jones 

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This year, Rian Johnson brought us perhaps the most polarising Star Wars film to date; The Last Jedi was a welcome but different addition to the franchise, and even though a lot of fans weren’t too pleased, the cast were on all on top form. While most of the talk has been about the exceptional Mark Hamill giving the best performance of his career, there is no one stronger than the man behind the (abandoned early on) mask, Adam Driver. He was a great addition to The Force Awakens  and an essential component to the power and adrenaline that courses through The Last Jedi. He is pure electricity, perfectly conveying Kylo Ren’s struggle in a nuanced and suitable fashion, but still sinks his teeth into a delightfully over the top performance that delivers on all fronts.

Daniel Kaluuya and Betty Gabriel – Get Out
by Robbie Jones

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Jordan Peele blew audiences away with his satirical horror smash that saw a young black man at the centre of a twisted plot when he visits his white girlfriend’s family for the first time. As the heart of the film, Daniel Kaluuya completely knocks it out of the park. The sheer terror in his face is haunting, which makes his nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes all the more ridiculous. Now, terrified is one thing, but terrifying it just as impressive and Betty Gabriel fits the bill. Her strained smile alone is one of the most definitive images in this year’s cinema, but everything from her voice to her manner is 100% effective and he is not getting enough love for this performance.

Yes, I’m still annoyed about the Golden Globes.

Jon Hamm – Baby Driver
by Robbie Jones

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I’ve been gagging to talk about this one all year…I probably love Jon Hamm more than the average person; discovered him in Mad Men, which is one of my absolute TV favourites, then watched him take on great supporting roles in films like Bridesmaids, Friends with Kids and The Town. But I’ve always felt like since Mad Men ended, he just truly hasn’t gotten the film works he deserves. Now Baby Driver  was not a film that I loved; it was a fun action ride, but a poorly written film for the usually excellent Edgar Wright, but Jon Hamm? Perfection. To give the script some credit, the way it structures Buddy’s story is fantastic, and the development of his character is really well done. For every step of the way, Hamm rises to the occasion, making for one of the exhilarating and entertaining performances of the year. Slick, relentless and devilishly charming, you can really see that the role was written specifically for him, because he completely owns it.

Emma Stone – Battle of the Sexes
by Robbie Jones

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Emma Stone’s performance in La La Land  was a dizzying and beautiful portrayal of someone with big dreams in a fantastical film, but her performance in Battle of the Sexes is about as human and as tender as she’s ever been. The film follows Billie Jean King’s fight for equal rights in tennis, as well as her struggle with her emerging sexuality. The determination in King’s mission is expressed in the most powerful way by Stone, but it’s the smaller scenes that explore her relationship with hairdresser Marilyn (hairdresser) where she really shines. It’s the smallest things; just the look on her face, the awkward smiles, the passion and wonder in her eyes, and the way she always appears so starstruck…It’s pure intimacy, without ever having to take it to any unnecessary places. Emma Stone has never been so beautiful and has never been so enigmatic, easily her best performance to date.

Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project
by Wayne D’Cruz

As the mischievous, loquacious Moonee, seven-year old Brooklynn Prince breathes immense life into her character in The Florida Project. Precocious yet mostly ensconced from the harsher realities of her mum’s life, Prince’s Moonee is a complete delight as she roams around her neighbourhood with wild abandon, plotting her next prank. Prince’s finest scene is one of the final scenes of The Florida Project. Reaching her friend’s door and for the first time inarticulate on account of being out of breath as well as weighed down by emotion, Moonee breaks out into a literal cry for help — a flood of tears, as does nearly every other person who has watched the film.

The entire cast of Moonlight
by Robbie Jones

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It started with just Naomie Harris, then Trevant Rhodes and Andre Holland got thrown in, and eventually it was just like “…We may as well include them all”. Barry Jenkins’ brilliant Best Picture winner Moonlight featured a dazzling display of talent from both it’s young and adult actors. Holland, Rhodes and Ashton Sanders, the three actors who portray Chiron over the course of his life, have no difficulty representing the same character and maintaining the beautiful development he experiences. Mahershalah Ali is the powerful father figure, and Naomie Harris the neglectful mother…She’s enraging and enticing, and goes above and beyond anything shes’ ever done before. Moonlight, above all else, is brutally human, and this cast offer up the most vivid and tantalising performances to fulfil that image.

Timothee Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name
by Wayne D’Cruz

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I was fortunate to catch Call Me By Your Name at its London premiere during the BFI London Film Festival. It took me a great deal of restraint at the after-party to not rush up to the young star and gush like a giddy teenager over his brilliant performance. In his breakout role, Chalamet, all of 22, lends Elio a remarkable vulnerability. He shines in scenes where he has little to no dialogue, bringing to the fore the pangs of first love. Not enough can be said about the film’s much-raved about final scene — heartbroken Elio staring into the fireplace for several minutes, as the camera lingers on uncomfortably with Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Visions of Gideon’ playing in the background. Arguably, the film’s piece de resistance, the strength of which on alone, will most likely result in an Oscar nod for Chalamet.

James Franco – The Disaster Artist
by Robbie Jones

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There’s truly nothing left to say about The Room, so let’s just dedicate all our energy to James Franco’s stunning portrayal of the eccentric but ambitious mastermind behind the best-worst film ever. What could have easily been just a case of putting on a wig, a silly accent, and making fun of a human being who had dreams, Franco sinks into the role of Tommy Wiseau, and represents the man the way we needed to see him before his creation became a joke. He was passionate, he was irrational, he was unbearable, but he was consistent. Franco is mesmerising, giving his best performance to date in an awards season favourite.

James McAvoy – Split
by Robbie Jones

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I feel dirty writing about this wonderful Scot instead of our dear editor, who kind of likes James McAvoy a little bit – She’s not fussed – But it has to be said that he set the bar high for performances in early January when M. Night Shymalan astonishingly made a good film. Split  is a great psychological thriller that stars McAvoy as a man who frequently switches between 24 different split personalities. The few that get the lions share of screen time are truly mind blowing; McAvoy is entirely uncrecognisable. Terrifying, enticing, hilarious and down uncomfortable – Every character he takes on is thrilling and he brings absolutely everything to it. My personal favourite is troubled nine year old Hedwig, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that McAvoy completely floored me. Truly worthy of every award going, though it’s likely that won’t receive even one.

Isabelle Huppert – Elle
by Sarah Cook

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As much as I adore Emma Stone, Isabelle Huppert’s performance as Elle should’ve one the Academy Award. There is no other performance so intricate, powerful, vulnerable, and weighted as Huppert’s  titular character in Paul Verhoeven’s thriller. Playing a victim of rape who turns the tables on her assailant in a psychologically disturbing and erotic way, Huppert is superb. A performance unlike any other, she twists and turns through the film with charged and quaking energy. A tremendous role for Huppert.

Those are our picks for the best performances of 2017, and the crazy thing is, there are still like 20 other names we could’ve thrown in. That’s just how good this year was for performances, and we can only hope 2018 offers half as good.


What’s your favourite  performance of 2017? 

Positive Film Things in 2017

If there is one thing we can all agree on, it is that 2017 has been a shit show. Between Trump, Brexit, and the sexual assault allegations, we have always been battered with uncovering exactly how shit humanity really is.

We’re a torn species. We are at war with our goodness, our kindness, and our morals. Struggling to see hope as we enter 2018, we at We Make Movies on Weekends believe in the power of cinema. And whilst that may be sometimes lost, we’ve had a year full of film goodness that we can hold onto.

Here’s some of our favourites:

Moonlight wins Best Picture

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OK. So it was announced in the most calamitous way, but Moonlight winning the Best Picture Oscar was a momentous shift. Not only was a black LGBT film the winner of the most prestigious and sort after prize, the much deserved film from Barry Jenkins was a ground-breaking movie. One of the lowest budgeted films to ever win the accolade, it steered the film industry away from the predictable and opened up doors for directors of all backgrounds. Moonlight was ground-breaking for many reasons and is definitely a film that is going to be celebrated and studied years down the line.

Female Directors Smashed It

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If there is one thing I’ll consistently say, is that more women are needed behind the scenes. And if you want to hit back at me with “we shouldn’t just award people based on gender, it should be talent based,” I just want to say – shut the fuck up. Women have proven repeatedly that they are more than equipped to be a larger voice in the industry. 2017 saw directors such as Dee Ress (Mudbound,) Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird,) and Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) smash at the box office and earn great critical acclaim. Jenkins provided both with her superhero entry and is probably the best received DCEU movie whilst Gerwig has beaten Moonlight to be A24’s greatest selling film. Women in 2018 are going to have a high too, including Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, Kay Cannon’s Cockblockers, and Lynne Ramsey’s You Were Never Really Here. 

LGBT Cinema Excelled

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LGBT cinema has often provided some of the most intricate and invigorating films since cinema was invented. Sadly, a lot of these films found their way into a niche genre, with only Oscar-bait type movies making their way to the mainstream. 2017 saw movies such as Moonlight, God’s Own Country, and Call Me By Your Name were received positively by critics and audiences a like (God’s Own Country has it’s very own London based fan club.) Powerful movies, acted tremendously well, with emotive, expressive, and honest story-lines, we’re getting closer to no longer calling these films LGBT cinema.

Blockbusters Went for the Bold and the Brave

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While this may not be applicable for a lot of blockbusters (we certainly sat through a lot of sub-par movies, sequels, and remakes,) there was still a lot of admirable movies that tried to break the conventions of the big smash hit. Christopher Nolan’s well-executed Dunkirk broke box office records, Taika Waititi’s Thor re-imagined our lovable but dull superhero and utilised hilarity and fun, and Rian Johnson’s Star Wars entry, The Last Jedi, dared to think differently with the franchise and earned critical acclaim because of it. Though we had dud blockbusters this year, choosing independent directors to helm big films proved successful and has paved the way for other franchises to take charge.

Get Out’s Success

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When the first trailer dropped for Jordan Peele’s inventive horror, we all knew this was going to be a mind-bending and truly terrific film. Yet nothing had prepared us for the treat we had in store. Get Out was an accomplished, terrifying, pulse-racing, and altogether genius film that twisted America. Now a favourite for award season, Peele’s work at satirising racism in the good US of A, with a glorious lead performance by Daniel Kaluuya made a critical and commercial impact. Now a favourite at the upcoming award-season, Get Out proved that audience want intellect and cleverness and originality. And boy, did Peele deliver.


What positive film event of 2017 can you think of? 
Let us know! 

2017: The Year We Embraced the Spectrum of WWII Films

Perhaps a result of the fear that WWIII would be announced via twitter, 2017 was a spectacular year to navigate World War II films. In no particular order, we look at the range of films focusing variously on Polish, French, American, German & British victims, heroes and villains, and those that defied categorisation.

From deceptively light and airy slop to visceral military engagement, we take a look at a year of World War 2 films.

Alone in Berlin

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A quiet tale of the crimes a German couple committed during Hitler’s reign: Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson are stoic, terse, and relatable as husband and wife in this film based on the non-fiction book by Hans Fallada. When their only son is killed in action, these proud German parents start to question the value of war being fought. Beginning an anonymous letter writing campaign, they soon come to the attention of the German military.

This is a slow-burning film. It asks, what would you do? And how much hatred and death is too much? It takes an ordinary couple to question what their lives mean. Daniel Brühl returns another fine performance as a Nazi agent. Brühl’s German lead investigator is nuanced and complex, though he may be sympathetic, his crimes remain without sympathy. These German dissenters opposition to Hitler did not begin against state sanctioned genocide. We feel that their opposition drew strength from their son’s death, the straw that broke the camel’s back. The subtle soundtrack, the dark browns and heavy greens, the detailed and luxurious costuming lend this tense thriller gravity and bravado.

Denial

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A brilliant Rachel Weisz portrays the Jewish historian, Deborah Lipstadt whose book, History on Trial, was the basis of this film. Infamous holocaust denier David Irving lies, that the Nazi perpetrated Holocaust did not occur, or was greatly exaggerated, remain infuriating. Lipstadt asserted Irving was lying and Irving sued for libel. In order to win the case, Lipstadt’s team needed to provide evidence the Holocaust occurred.

This dry courtroom drama should have been the movie of the year, alas it falls short. Denial’s exceptional value is that it provides Jewish agency. Survivors found the strength to contribute to this trial and their courage stands out across the years.

Their Finest

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Whilst the young men of the day were fighting World War II, women were being invited into the workplace in greater numbers than ever before. We meet the vivacious Gemma Arterton, her boyfriend’s intermittent artist’s income in need of supplementary provision. This unmarried (gasp) writer (sigh) living in sin with a divorced man (faint) is bright and gutsy, soon landing a writing gig with a film producer creating British propaganda content. Her learning curve is offset by the gruff old actor, Bill Nighy, and the brilliant yet snarky lead writer, Sam Clafin.

A female led story, created by females, it was directed by Lone Scherfig, adapted by Gabby Chiappe, based on Lissa Evan’s book. With an engaging cast, this is a go-get-em, sock it to them sorta film, slyly feminist, in the vein of a British, A League of Their Own. Perhaps also the first this year to discuss the events of Dunkirk…

Dunkirk

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War is horror. A war film with a horror movie soundtrack, this Christopher Nolan film should win Oscars, place bets on a winning a score or sound editing nomination at the very least.

Written, directed by, and starring white men, Dunkirk hit a nerve in small corners of the net when googling revealed, yes, there were men of other colour fighting on Dunkirk. A valuable consideration in a year when outgoing Doctor Who showrunner, Stephen Moffat was reluctant to cast men of colour in a British Victorian regiment on the MOON.

Strong actors focus this cleverly structured non-linear entity: A juxtaposition of three timelines running parallel with each other remained simple to follow. With breathtaking scenery shot from Tom Hardy’s spitfire perspective, theIMAX price is worthwhile.

Bag of Marbles (Un Sac de Billes)

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Based on the 1974 memoir of the same name, Bag of Marbles tells the true story of French Jewish brothers escaping the occupied France.

When films discuss the holocaust we often see brave escapes engineered by, and nuanced portrayals of these saviours. Their heroics will stand the test of time, their acts undiminished by other stories of the same time. Bag of Marbles focus is on these survivors. With agency given to survivors perhaps we may identify with them more closely, help to see how quickly, and without cause, the ‘other’ is demonised. This French language film’s sub-titling is visually appealing and relatively easy to navigate.

Churchill

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Three key reasons:

1. Brian Cox as Churchill in 1944 arguing against the Normandy landings is magnificent.
2. Miranda Richardson is a delight, providing a complex and refreshingly authentic portrayal of Churchill’s wife, Clemmy.
3. The opening dream sequence as Churchill’s famous hat (homburg) tumbles along a bloodied beach might be one of the most beautiful scenes released this year.

The Zookeeper’s Wife
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Polish couple, Antonina & Jan Zabinska, saved hundreds of Jewish, funnelling them through their Warsaw zoo. Zabinska’s determination, at first to save close friends, expanded into a much larger operation. Once again, Daniel Bruul plays the German lead investigator, complimented by the always enchanting Jessica Chastain, and Belgian actor Johan Heldenbergh.

The film is told from Antonina’s perspective, based on Dianne Ackerman’s book, adapted by Angela Workman and  also directed by Niki Caro. Having the film led by the female perspective makes the film all that much better. Beginning lightly, the town is thrown into chaos after a bombing raid frees zoo animals. Later, we are delivered darker moments in the Warsaw Ghetto and and abusive power. One of the more gentle Holocaust films, it nonetheless does not hide the cruelty and difficult circumstances.


What do you think? 
Let us know in the comments below. 

Molly’s Game – Reveiw

There has always been rules that, when writing screenplays, you keep dialogue to a minimum. Your exposition and emotion has to come from imagery and a really, really, good actor. When your watching a movie by Aaron Sorkin, however, that rule is thrown out the window. The TV and film television writer has produced fast speaking pieces such as The Newsroom,  A Few Good Men, The West Wing, and the immutable Steve Jobs.

Now Sorkin takes up the mantel of director in Molly’s Game which is a prime example of his dialogue heavy writing.

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Starring Jessica Chastain in the titular role, Molly’s Game revolves around Olympic-class skier Molly Bloom who drops out of the sport after a terrible accident. So, naturally, her next career choice is to become a poker game runner, dealing with high-rollers, famous actors, directors, and more. However, when the FBI indite her for her unwilling involvement with the Russian Mafia, she hires and together criminal defence lawyer Charlie Jaffey, the pair have to fight the charges as well as the defamation from the tabloid press. Can Molly clear her name?

Sorkin’s work here as director is impressive as he produces a highly energetic drama that flits through the underbelly of the gambling world that Molly grew into a multi-million dollar business. Sorkin provides insightful knowledge and impressive fast talk that is a staple of his work. The director deals an ultimately good film that teeters on excellence if it weren’t for the unlikeability of the character’s work.

Similarly to The Big Short, when tackling money, it is hard to feel any sympathy for people involved. Here is similar: gambling and poker are destructive entities that, even though Molly has manipulated the game to her will and still attempts to steer  people away from falling through pit-falls, it is tricky to feel anything for anyone involved. Unlike movies that deal with the dangers of gambling such as the brilliantly underrated Mississippi Grind,  Molly’s Game deals with this rather privileged woman who played a complex career that Sorkin chooses to speed through. When it’s hard to empathise with the main character and story, it’s tricky to find anything enjoy about the film, even if you appreciate it’s cleverness and dialogue fun.

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Jessica Chastain is a popular and brilliant actress who tackles Molly with a great amount of gusto. She does save a large majority of the film because she is compelling in some way. Whilst the overall presence of Molly is off-putting, it’s Chastain’s brilliant talent that pulls you in. Brilliant as always, Chastain does offer some excellence to the proceedings. Idris Elba and Kevin  Costner make admirable side additions to the film as Jaffey and Molly’s father respectively. But this is Chastain’s Game and any other player is moot.

Molly’s Game is a good film but it suffers from never truly adding much depth to the main characters and the subject matter being damn near uninteresting. That being said, the film is great for poker enthusiasts and to see Chastain shine.


Molly’s Game is out New Year’s Day

American Made – Review

There are plenty of movies out there about men who manipulate the system to get what they want. Movies such as War Dogs, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Big Short all revolve around squiffy white men who have played an awful game for money,

Aren’t we bored of these films? It’s exhausting seeing them rise and fall  and rise again, ending on some sort of quip or a moral lesson that doesn’t necessarily go anywhere because always they wind up becoming just as smug and heinous as before.

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American Made seemingly follows the same route but is luckily lifted up a notch by Tom Cruise’s charismatic performance.

American Made revolves around Barry Seal who is a pilot for a commercial airline. He’s contacted Monty Schafer of the CIA who asks him to fly secret missions over Central America using a small plane with cameras installed. During a mission in Panama, Seal agrees to start smuggling drugs for the Medelin Cartel. That’s when things start spiralling out of control for Seal. Arrests, gangs, drugs, and weapons, can Seal get out of the trade before disaster happens?

The story of Barry Seal is given a Hollywood makeover. It’s an unapologetic flashy and a raucous film that races through this real-life tale with a gun-ho attitude. Playing fast and loose with the story, director Doug Liman interjects a rambunctious energy into the proceedings. Sure, it can be, at times, a jittery and uneven energy but it is still an enjoyable one. The movie is a shiny snapshot of the eighties era just really, really high and while that still can be off-putting for some, Liman’s work here  is ultimately entertaining.

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It helps that Tom Cruise is so charismatic in his role. Despite his career turning into one-note characters and samey films, he gifts us with a compelling lead performance as Seal and as the antics level up, as does Cruise in a thrilling and, altogether, brilliant way. Opposite him as CIA operative Monty Schafer is Domnhall Gleeson. I don’t mean to hyperbolic but Gleeson could appear for five seconds of a film and it’ll be entertaining and brilliant (See: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

American Made is an apt title for this film because it’s obnoxious, it’s loud, and it give zero shits. Morally bankrupt in the pursuit of pennies, American Made is perhaps an apt metaphor for the country itself. If anything, it is viciously riveting.


American Made is out on Boxing Day!