Best (and worst) of 2017 in international movies

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In a time when everything seems so wrong, a few movies stood out that felt so right. They had their corny moments, a couple of teeth-gnashing ones, and sometimes you got the feeling that the filmmakers were really overdoing it in the sympathy sweepstakes.

The label “best” may be loosely interpreted here, but – even though a quantum shift in my scope of work meant that I missed a great number of films this year – these are the ones that made the biggest impression on me.

The five best (in no particular order): Hacksaw RidgeWonder WomanStar Wars: The Last JediLoganBrawl In Cell Block 99.

The next five (ditto): Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2Thor: RagnarokJustice LeagueSpider-Man: HomecomingWar For The Planet Of The Apes.

Special mention: SplitItHidden Figures, Get Out

No summary of the above, because I need the space for these special mentions.

 

Most Dazzling Visuals: Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets. OK, the story may have left more than a few people scratching their heads, but those gorgeous visuals and the sheer imagination behind the design and concepts – like, wow.

 

Most Single-Minded Character: That would be Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn), the antihero of Brawl In Cell Block 99, who had one thing on his mind – protect his wife and unborn child – and descended into hell to get it done. A 1970s-type grindhouse exploitation flick, sure, but as Variety put it, “exploitation made with vicious sincerity”.
Worst Continuity: Transformers: The Last Knight – Ooh! Optimus Prime rockets into orbit to fight the giant space broccoli (to borrow my colleague Michael Cheang’s term for … whatever that thing was)! A huge battle breaks out between Decepticons and humans around Stonehenge! Look! Here’s a little girl who says she just ran into Optimus (duh, in mid-air?), who is running after her like some giant lapdog-truck (laptruck?). And she’s running towards Stonehenge, which shows almost no signs of the pitched battle that broke out about … two minutes ago? But Bay, it’s hey.

 

What In The Blue Hell Did I Just Watch?: King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword – When did ancient Britain become Middle-earth, with Olyphants … wait, that’s not right. Sorry, Timothy. Anyway, so Guy Ritchie figured it was all right to throw Oliphaunts, Lovecraftian creatures and a Big Bad torn straight out of a Frank Frazetta painting (Death Dealer, if you want specifics) into a movie about King Arthur. And give us next to nothing about the legend of the sword Excalibur. And turn Arthur-King and his K-niggets into a motley crew of malcontents, cutpurses and pimps. And somehow make it almost as much fun as Monty Python And The Holy Grail. Yes, I did enjoy this more than a movie reviewer has a right to. Maybe ‘cos it was my day off.
Stupidest. Movie. Character. Ever.: That would be Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), who found himself having to be captain of the Covenant after James Franco realised he was only going to be in Alien: Covenant for two minutes. To think our pal Oram used to be a “nucular” scientist in another incarnation. The following (paraphrased) exchange kind of sums up Oram’s idiocy.

Oram: Hands up, you synthetic person of questionable intentions, who just communed psychically with an alien beast that ripped one of my crew members in half, and which I just shot to pieces.

Evil Synthetic Person: Hey, before you shoot me, wanna see something cool?

Oram (following ESP down a creepy staircase into a dark basement): Show me the money!

ESP (gesturing at alien egg): Take a gander at that, why doncha?

Oram (looking at egg, which opens up to reveal a pulsating Facehugger coiled within): What, this? It doesn’t look that cool.

ESP: Look closer.

Oram (leans closer obligingly) (twice): … Ack!

Not that he didn’t have competition – there was that other guy in the same movie who (continuing the inherent, genetic stupidity of characters in this Prometheus story arc) stooped to sniff at a weird space mangosteen without at least putting on a face mask. But since Oram doomed not only himself but his entire crew and all those poor sleeping colonists with his dodgy decisions, he gets the glory.

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