2017's Must See Movies
While nothing matched 2016's runaway box-office success of Hunt for the Wilderpeople, it's still been a pretty good year for Kiwi movie fans.
We've seen Taika take on Marvel, a diverse slate of seriously impressive homegrown documentaries and dramas (the less said about the comedy and action films the better) and a reasonably solid slate of blockbuster and arthouse fare.
The good news that there's even better to come on the horizon. I would have loved to have included Darkest Hour, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, I, Tonya and On Chesil Beach (all of which I saw at September's Toronto Film Festival), but because they don't hit New Zealand cinemas until 2018 they'll just have to be considered as part of next year's line-up.
* Binge-watchers' bible: The top 10 television shows of 2017
* The five best movies of 2017 (so far)
Nicole Kidman starred in The Beguiled.
With its strong female cast and slim, but dramatically packed running time, this had more in common with Sofia Coppola's 2000 feature debut The Virgin Suicides than any of her later work. Perfectly paced and terrifically engrossing, Beguiled's draws the viewer in with its shifting sympathies and nuanced characters.
That is thanks largely to a fabulous cast that also included Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Angourie Rice. But Coppola also displayed plenty of artistic flourishes, from lingering shots to dappled light and a very atmospheric opening. It all builds towards a terrific finish, with the most tense and potentially disturbing dinner party since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Timothy Spall was Denial's undoubted scene-stealer.
Based on Deborah Lipstadt's 2005 book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, this was a compelling courtroom drama peppered with some truly sublime performances.
While Rachel Weisz and Tom Wilkinson do most of the story's heavy lifting, the show was almost completely stolen by Timothy Spall, his self-aggrandising, sexist, insensitive David Irving a truly haunting and hissable figure.
A Ghost Story
A Ghost Story saw Casey Affleck don a sheet for much of the film's running-time.
David Lowery's meditative romantic drama was bewildering and beguiling in equal measures.
What other movie this year dared to place Oscar's reigning best actor winner under a sheet for most of the running time, or spend five minutes watching a terrific young Hollywood actress devour a family-sized pie? And yet somehow for all that craziness still leave a good chunk of cinemagoers haunted by it for days. The low-budget tale that the New Zealand-shot Pete's Dragon (Lowrey's last project) helped fund, A Ghost Story was a slow-burning study of grief and despair.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer was a chillingly effective thriller.
Rather than Shakespeare's Scottish play, William Oldroyd's feature debut was based on Russian writer Nikolai Leskov's 1865 Madame Bovery-esque novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. Oldroyd did a terrific job of resetting Leskov's tale to rural Britain, juxtaposing the relative opulence of the house's interiors with the muck and grime of the farm and, in one memorable scene, cutting between images of naked bodies and decaying animals.
He was assisted immensely by a truly breathtaking turn by Florence Pugh (The Falling). The English actress delivered one of the truly mesmerising and memorable performances of the year as the compelling, conniving and, at times, chilling Katherine.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Florence Pugh was mesmerising in Lady Macbeth.
From the opening scenes of operatic-scored heart surgery to its heart-wrenching denouement, Yorgos Lanthimos' (The Lobster) latest tale was one of the most unnerving slices of cinema in years.
And yet, bizarrely, it also possessed a thick streak of black comedy coursing through its dramatic veins. Perfectly paced, the Greek director's screenplay slowly unveils its mysteries before daring to make the audience almost complicit in the terrible conundrum facing cardiac surgeon Dr Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell). Almost surgically precise and gleefully messy, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer was certainly not a film you can easily forget – and nor should you wish to.
Adam Driver and Channing Tatum played two unlikely brothers in Logan Lucky.
Four years after his self- proclaimed "final film", TV movie Behind the Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh roared back into cinemas with one of the most entertaining movies of 2017.
Collaborating with mysterious first-time screenwriter Rebecca Blunt (believed by many to be pseudonym for someone else), Soderbergh produced a comedy heist that's kind of a combination of Talladega Nights, Little Miss Sunshine and the best of the Coen Brothers (and as the film itself cheekily declares – the central heist is best described as an Ocean's 7Eleven). Filled with colourful characters, crazy situations, clever camera shots and choice soundtrack cuts, Logan Lucky's beautifully layered plot featured more twists and turns than a Nascar race (which admittedly isn't hard).
Kristen Stewart delivered one of her finest performances in Personal Shopper
You might just reassess your opinion of much-maligned actress Kristen Stewart after watching her performance in this stylish and seriously unsettling thriller.
A joint winner of the director's prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival French film-maker Olivier Assayas' psychological drama was an atmospheric chiller that evokes memories of the best of Lynch, Hitchcock, De Palma and Argento (as well as coming across like a delightfully understated companion piece to Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon). A movie that could teach the Paranormal Activity producers a thing or two about how to make things that go bump in the night freaky, Personal Shopper also reminded one of 2001's The Others with its increasingly dread-filled air of mystery and intrigue.
One of James McAvoy's many personalities in Split.
While the central girls-in-peril conceit might have seemed a little overfamiliar, director M Night Shyamalan managed to overcome any sense of déjà vu thanks to the ever-shifting narrative sands of his antagonist's affliction and a stellar performance by James McAvoy.
Charming and menacing in equal measure, the Scotsman draws the audience into his fractured world and had you either on the edge of the seat or cowering behind it.
Toni Erdmann offered proof the Germans could make comedies.
The true delights of German director Maren Ade's film about a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship were in the details and set-pieces.
From an unforgettable luncheon, to an Embassy Reception quickly heading south, some unexpected karaoke and a moment (involving petit fours) to rival There's Something About Mary's most-famous scene, there were sights and scenes that upon being viewed will be seared into your memory for months.
War for the Planet of the Apes
War For the Planet of the Apes was two of Weta Digital's finest hours.
Third time really was the charm for Weta Digital.
Who knew that 15 years after the franchise seemingly went for a fatal [Tim] "Burton", we'd be hailing these Planet prequels/reboots as one of the great cinematic sci-fi trilogies? We've truly seen the rise of a compelling, complicated yet comprehensible story that has also heralded a new dawn in special-effects wizardry and moviemaking, crowned by the breathtaking, beguiling and bravura War.
Read all the allegories and allusions you want into it, at its heart War was innovative, intelligent and indelible cinema.
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