Sunday, 31 December 2017


Hi folks! Hope the holiday season was full of cheer and you all have my best wishes for a great 2018.

So here we are at the end of 2017. It seems like just a year ago that I was talking on this blog about my favourite movies of 2016, because it was. Now it's time for me to reveal my ten favourite films of this year, plus ten more which just missed that particular cut but are still well worth your time.

As usual, there will be great movies I didn't get to see this year and that's why they didn't make the list. As usual, I can't rank them from 1 to 10 (or 10 to 1), it was difficult enough to narrow the list down without trying to decide which one I liked the most. And, as usual, it's fine if you don't like my list. However, it's my list and I'm standing by it.

Some of the following may have played festivals or could have even been released last year but I saw them in 2017 and that is purely the criterion I'm applying.

So, rambling over. In purely alphabetical order, here goes...


Edgar Wright's effervescent car-chase/heist/romance thrill ride was something that I went back to see again and enjoyed it just as much, if not more, than I did on the first viewing. Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the best getaway driver around but he's trying to get out of the business, doubly so when he sees the possibility of a new life with waitress Debora (Lily James). And of course he's pressured into doing one last job...

I know some people complained about the plausibility of this one and I get that but sometimes cinema is all about escapism and Baby Driver presents a marvellously skewed reality, one in which a simple walk to and a from a coffee shop is choreographed to a cracking track from Bob & Earl.

Elgort and James make for a cute couple, the dialogue fizzes, the ancillary roles are all nicely-written and acted (Jon Hamm looks like he had a blast making this), the action sequences get the adrenaline pumping, the jokes land and the romantic interludes are sweet. And now I want to watch it again.


The first Creep movie, for me at least, came pretty much out of nowhere and I was thoroughly impressed at not only its mixture of chills and chuckles but also with how it took the building blocks of the "found footage" genre to construct something very different.

Again, Duplass' serial killer - now calling himself Aaron - advertises for a videographer to document his life and web series maker Sara (Desiree Akhavan) shows up but from then on all bets are off as this superior sequel heads off in a number of unexpected directions. Bringing the fear and the funny in equal measure, this risks a lot by playing almost the entire proceedings as a two-hander between Aaron and Sara but this pays off handsomely because Duplass and Akhavan spark off each other outstandingly.

I saw this at Celluloid Screams in October where it went down a storm. Mark Duplass is once again both hilarious and deeply unnerving and Akhavan kicks arse in both performance and plot. I was more than sufficiently Creep-ed out (yeah yeah, I'm using that one again) to want a third one.


Nacho Vigalondo's magnificent mash-up of monster movie and indie dramedy sees the somewhat flaky Gloria (Anne Hathaway) have her life in New York fall to pieces and head back to her hometown where old acquaintance Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) offers her a job in his bar. Meanwhile, a giant creature is attacking Seoul and Gloria is struck by the possibility that she may be connected to this strange phenomenon.

It's a brilliant concept and Vigalondo runs with it, giving us the classic city in peril sequences we'd expect but never allowing these to undercut the smaller moments as Hathaway tries to get herself together. In fact, the smaller moments end up becoming the bigger moments as...but I'm giving too much away.

As always, Hathaway is first-rate and makes for an affectingly flawed heroine but it's Jason Sudeikis who is the real surprise here. Yes, his comedic turns have always been impressive but here he turns in a multi-layered and, quite frankly, amazing performance. As for the movie, it's winningly weird and I loved it.


After Resolution and Spring, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead make it three unmissable films out of three with this genre-hopping, mind-melting tale of Justin (Benson) and Aaron (Moorhead) who return to the "UFO death cult" from which they escaped years previously.

Resolutely refusing to stick to any kind of template, The Endless constantly leaves the viewer genuinely unsure of exactly where the story is going and what the hell is going to happen next. It also avoids going down the usual route of having cult members behaving like lunatics within nanoseconds of being introduced to them. In fact, they actually seem like reasonable people with a purpose. Or is that what the movie wants you to think?

Taking the lead roles in their own film is something of a risk but Benson and Moorhead carry the film very well, helped by a fine supporting cast. With a beautifully executed, satisfying callback to their previous work which explains some of the head-spinning plot developments this rewards patience and attention. You may leave the cinema with your mind blown but trust me, you'll feel better for it.


On the fringe of Disneyworld the fringes of society live in motel complexes, facing a daily struggle to just exist. In one such place, six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) goes off on various adventures with her equally free-spirited playmates while rebellious mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) tries to keep a roof over their heads.

There's no doubting that Sean Baker's film tackles a tough subject and there are some utterly heartbreaking moments along the way but there's also a whole lot of joy to be found as the piece captures precisely what it's like to be a kid. The young members of the cast are amazingly naturalistic and the adults are none too bad either. Bria Vinaite's debut is flawless and Willem Dafoe, as sympathetic motel manager Bobby, demonstrates once again what an exceedingly fine actor he is.

The end of The Florida Project seems to have proven somewhat divisive. I thought it was totally in keeping with the rest of the film, a mixture of heart-rending sadness and unbridled delight. 


Is a horror movie? Is it a thriller? Is it a social satire? Whatever the label, Jordan's Peele film is excellent from start to finish. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) takes a trip with girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her ultra-liberal parents for the first time and from the get-go something doesn't seem quite right.

Get Out doesn't play its hand too early, building the tension - and eliciting plenty of nervous laughs - via a series of increasingly weird and unsettling events before tipping into full-on horror in its final stretch. As well as being thoroughly entertaining, this also makes salient points about racism but not in a preachy way. It asks us to take a look at how we behave without having to hammer the message home.

The denouement is deliciously twisted, the clash of cultures is dealt with in a smart, amusing way, any movie that has Catherine Keener in it gets my vote and can we please have a spin off which focuses on Chris's best friend Rod? For me, Rod is the supporting character of the year and Lil Rel Howery is ace as the TSA employee with a nose for suspicious goings-on. Rod is the guy we'd all like as our best friend.


Rural England, 1865, and the young Katherine (Florence Pugh) is sold into marriage to a man twice her age. As her husband spends more and more time away from home, Katherine enters into a reckless romance with a stable worker on the estate. Needless to say, things don't go well...

William's Oldroyd's strikingly shot drama is intense, passionate and gripping, with Florence Pugh absolutely magnetic in the central role. Sure, it's on the bleak side but it's beautifully made, dripping with atmosphere and its climax seems to have upset a few people judging but some of the things I've read about their reaction to it.

My view is: surely they should be upset in some way at how things end here. It's also a testament to the conviction of those who made this that they don't try to pull out an upbeat ending from nowhere, the piece naturally moves inexorably towards its grim and tragic conclusion and that's how it should be. 


At long last, the Wolverine movie that I (and possibly many others) had been waiting for, Logan is grungy, sweary, and very, very violent. It's also full of unexpectedly warm - if somewhat dark - humour with Hugh Jackman's titular hero and Patrick Stewart's Professor X as aged, bickering companions in an increasingly emotional road movie as they attempt to keep mutant kid Laura (Dafne Keen) out of the hands of some very bad guys.

F-words and severed limbs are liberally scattered throughout. Innocent people die up close in brutal and shocking ways. It's the antithesis of all those summer superhero blockbusters and is so much better for it. If this wasn't enough, the final moments deliver an emotional gut punch that will make you hope there's no post-credit sequence so you can get out of the cinema for air.

Definitely my favourite Marvel movie so far and if this is Messrs Stewart and Jackman's final appearance as X and Wolvie then they'll have bowed out in superb style.


As with 2016's Top Ten another short movie finds itself on the list. Last year it was Katie Bonham's wonderful Mindless and this year it's Katie Bonham's even more wonderful Mab. Rosie delivers packages on a regular basis to the mysterious title character but a late arrival to her destination one day gives her a glimpse into a strange and terrifying world.

Once again, as with Mindless, social commentary mixes with the supernatural to produce something truly distinctive. Without so much as a drop of gore, the revelation of the fate of one particular character is devastatingly, horribly realised and it's moments like this which confirm you're in the hands of a skilled film-maker.

Everything about this short is infused with quality. The production design is fabulous, the score is sublime and the performances are accomplished, especially newcomer Maria-Theresa as Rosie who's expressive and sympathetic without ever overplaying it.

Deservedly winning the Melies D'Argent (and the Audience Award) at this year's Abertoir Festival, this expertly fuses the everyday and the extraordinary. Is another Katie Bonham film going to be on the 2018 Top Ten? On the basis of Mab, don't bet against it.


After the death of her partner, Ruth (Alice Lowe) starts to hear messages from her unborn child. These messages tell her to take revenge on the people responsible for covering up the tragedy as an accident, sending the mum-to-be on a homicidal rampage.

If the above paragraph sounds like a terribly depressing night at the cinema, it's actually quite the opposite. Prevenge serves up its murders and mayhem with a deliciously dark streak of humour and having many of its scenes play longer than we're used to gives us much more of an insight into the story's potential victims which means that, rather cleverly, we're never exactly sure who to side with.

Has Ruth truly been wronged or is she experiencing a psychotic episode following the death of a loved one? Indeed, is any of this actually happening? Prevenge lets you decide the answers to these questions for yourself. Writer/director/star Alice Lowe takes on that most tricky of beasts, the horror/comedy, and delivers both the shocks and the sniggers with surety.  

Honorable mentions go to the following (again in alphabetical order):

The Big Sick - Smartly scripted by Kumail Nanjiani, this takes his own real-life tale and spins it into a subversive rom-com. Full of heart and hilarity, this is a massive, welcoming hug of a movie and it has Holly Hunter being awesome. What more could you want?

Blade Runner 2049 - Making a sequel to Ridley Scott's classic original takes a lot of guts and I'm delighted to say that Denis Villeneuve's follow-up is very good indeed. Visually, this redefines the word "stunning" but there's also an intriguing continuation of the story in which to become involved. Ryan Gosling is first class as top blade runner J but it's Harrison Ford's return as Deckard which really elevates the proceedings. How great is Harrison Ford in this? I'll answer that one for you. He's bloody brilliant.

Brawl In Cell Block 99 - S. Craig Zahler follows up the excellent Bone Tomahawk with this tale of drug runner Vince Vaughn landing in the clink and trying to save his pregnant wife on the outside. Builds brilliantly to an astonishingly violent payoff, Vaughn is on career-best form here and sterling support is provided by Udo Kier and Don Johnson.

Canaries - Belying its £29,000 budget, Peter Stray's beguiling mix of sci-fi, horror and comedy reaches for the stars while still keeping its feet firmly on the ground as bantering, bickering mates try to survive an alien invasion in the Welsh Valleys. With a surprisingly detailed mythology to give the backstory some real heft, this hits all of the right notes regardless of which genre it's stepped into.

Diani & Devine Meet The Apocalypse - Comedy duo Etta Devine and Gabriel Diani suddenly find themselves in a situation where there's no power, communcations are down and society is collapsing. What follows next is an unexpectedly sweet and consistently funny series of adventures as our heroes try to survive. Track this down before the world ends.

The Disaster Artist - James Franco directs and stars in this take on the making of Tommy Wiseau's now infamous movie The Room. The chaotic environment of the film set makes for some big laughs along the way but this is also a spirited celebration of someone following their dream, however crazy that dream may be.

I Remember You - A confidently-made slow-burner based on Yrsa Sigurðardóttir's novel, this weaves seemingly unconnected elements (a woman found hanged in a church, a missing child, a project to renovate a run-down house) into a coherent and ultimately satisfying whole. Beautiful Icelandic locations abound and it's creepy as hell, too.

M.F.A. - After a year in which new allegations of sexual misconduct surface pretty much every day, Natalia Leite's exploration of what happens to art student Noelle after a horrific incident could not be more timely. Uncompromising but unwaveringly unexploitative, this benefits further from an excellent, provocative screenplay by Leah McKendrick (who's also effective in a pivotal supporting role) and a terrific performance from Francesca Eastwood as Noelle.

My Life As A Courgette - Short (66 minutes) and very sweet animation centred on a young boy sent to a foster home following a tragedy at home. Confronting difficult subject matter with straightforwardness and great skill, this never descends into sentimentality and it's rather wonderful. You may have to pretend you have something in your eye come the end of this one.

Wonder Woman - After Logan, another much needed shot in the arm for the superhero movie as Amazonian warrior Diana (Gal Gadot in a piece of perfect casting) joins the fight in World War One. A wonder-fully (oh, I'm so sorry for that) entertaining mix of great action sequences, amusing fish-out-of-water comedy and spot-on emotional beats, this destroys the ridiculous argument that this sort of movie - any sort of movie, to be honest - is "a guy's thing".

Sunday, 17 December 2017


Starring: Maria-Teresa, Carolyn Saint-Pé, Lucy Clements
Writer: Katie Bonham
Director: Katie Bonham

Mab tells the story of Rosie (Maria-Teresa) and her mother, Kris (Lucy Clements), who struggle to make ends meet. Their only source of income comes from the daily delivery Rosie makes to the mysterious Mab, but what are these deliveries and what impact will this have on their lives of those around them?

You may remember how much I enjoyed Katie Bonham's previous short film Mindless, a terrific, emotionally resonant piece of work that ended up in my Top Ten films of 2016 so it was with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation that I approached Mab. I needn't have been concerned because Mab is even more accomplished than its predecessor.

Much like Mindless the plot’s focus is on the real, desperate, domestic struggles of the type of characters who are seldom given prominence in the horror genre and gives them a deft, otherworldly spin. The magical elements of the story never overwhelm the surprisingly gritty social commentary, instead the supernatural weaves its way in and out of the tale in creepy, strange and ultimately startling fashion.

The performances are top-notch, especially newcomer Maria-Teresa who is truly outstanding as Rosie. Surrounded by people who range from uncaring to genuinely horrendous, we are further drawn into the struggles of her character thanks to an adept, sympathetic performance. We don't learn too much about the other characters along the way (other than the fact they're generally awful) but that isn't an issue as this is Rosie's story and Maria-Teresa's expressive yet delicate work takes centre stage as it should.

As for the production design it’s consistently excellent, Mab’s place in particular being beautifully realised, a weird, wonderful collection of mystic artefacts which provides the ideal enchanted counterpoint to the drab dwelling inhabited by Rosie and her mum. I also loved the train which took Rosie to Mab’s each day, a familiar mode of transport given an unusual makeover and providing the perfect connection between the everyday and the extraordinary.

In some short films, the score sometimes goes by the wayside for any number of different reasons but here it’s yet another example of how Mab delivers. Patrick Fagan’s sublime musical accompaniments are never nudging nor do they overpower the on-screen action but add another pleasing layer of eerie depth to the movie. 

This doesn't deploy gallons of gore to keep its viewers watching and if you’re waiting for heads exploding or sprays of arterial claret then you’re going to have to rein in that bloodlust of yours. This rewards patience and imagination, proving that it’s what you create in your own head that’s far more devastating and terrifying than explicit grue. The fate of one character is all the more chilling simply because it resists cashing in with a spectacular, OTT demise. It’s all too real, it's genuinely horrible and it's something to which we can easily relate.

Mab is neither a movie which joins the dots for you in clunky fashion nor is it one so frustratingly enigmatic that you’ll wander out of the cinema wondering what the hell it was all about. Put your phone away for fifteen minutes and be swept up in this brilliant, original tale. The pace is perfect, the plot unfolds with great care and the climactic reveal is quietly yet profoundly disturbing. It’ll stay with you a whole lot longer than a shrieking chord of strings, a jump scare and a splash of red.

I may be starting to sound like a broken record when it comes to Katie Bonham's work but, as with the magnificent Mindless, this demands to be seen. Mab is an unmissable chiller from a skilled director growing in confidence and scope with each new project and I'm very much looking forward to finding out exactly where she's going to take us next.