We're now officially at the half-way point of the year, so what's it been like at the cinemas?
By and large, it's been a positive year in terms of box-office grosses and the like, but audience sentiment for major blockbusters appears to be turning somewhat. Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge / Dead Men Tell No Tales received middling reviews for a film that cost upwards of $230 million to produce, whilst Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 received positive-but-reserved praise on its run.
The bigger winner in 2017 so far has been genre movies like Get Out, Split and John Wick: Chapter 2 - all of which had hugely positive audience reaction and critical success as well.
Here's our picks for the ten best films of 2017 so far.
It's not every day a French-Belgian horror film bothers so many top 10 lists, but Raw really is unlike any film you've ever seen and considering that horror is easily one of the most well-worn genres out there, it takes some doing to be creative. Filled with twisted and trippy visuals, a disturbing story of sex, murder and meat, and a compelling central performance from Garance Marillier, Raw is a dark delight.
Although Natalie Portman's performance as Jackie Kennedy was only enough to win her a nomination for Best Actress, it's our belief that had La La Land and Emma Stone's performance not sucked the air out of the room, Portman could have won. At any rate, Pablo Larrain's exquisite eye for cinematography and visual aesthetics worked like a charm here, making for easily one of the most elegant political dramas ever made. Remember when politics was dignified?
Danny Boyle's return to Trainspotting and Glasgow after so many years was always going to be a dodgy one. After all, Boyle had moved on from his grungy roots and become more refined, less concerned with the grimy side of life. He'd done the Olympics, for God's sake. Yet, in spite of all this, Boyle approached the story from a completely unique perspective and acknowledged both his own limitations and that of the coming of age. These characters have matured, Glasgow's changed and the past is in the past. Even the tempo of the music has changed. Born Slippy is now Slow Slippy, and everyone's confused by the Rubberbandits.
Despite the furore surrounding Casey Affleck's personal life, the performances from Michelle Williams and Kenneth Lonergan's script and direction are all worthy of note. Very few films - especially ones that make it to the Oscars - take on life from a working class view, and do it in such a honest and forthright way. Affleck's character is completely believable, and the film asks a question that's not addressed all that often in film or television - how exactly do you carry on when you're crippled with grief and guilt?
M. Night Shyamalan's career renaissance began with The Visit, a low-budget horror that had all the hallmarks of Shyamalan's early work funneled through a new (for him, anyway) aesthetic - found-footage. Split, however, was more in line with his earlier work - clean, unfiltered and without any of his lofty ideas or faux-intellectualism. This coupled with a career-best performance from James McAvoy made for one of the most rewarding trips to the cinema this year.
Paul Verhoeven made his name with Western audiences for his bitingly sharp satires like Starship Troopers and Robocop, and then later fell out of love with American films with Hollow Man. As Verhoeven said of that film, "twenty other directors could have made that film." With Elle, nobody else could have made it except Verhoeven and no-one else could star in the lead role except Isabelle Huppert. The film careens from disturbing to blackly funny, taking on gender politics and sex in a way that only Verhoeven could.
Moonlight will be forever remembered as the film that didn't win but then actually did win an Oscar, and will forever have to share its history with La La Land. There's so much more to it, of course. Mahershala Ali was the first Muslim to win an Oscar. It was the first film with an all-black cast and the first LGBT film to win Best Picture. The film's editor, Joi McMillon, was the first black woman to be nominated for Best Editing. Couple all this with an engaging, human story and it's no wonder it won.
You might scoff and think that John Wick: Chapter 2 is just a lazy rehash of the sleeper-hit of 2015. In fact, it's so much more. It proves that original ideas can be both commercially and critically successful nowadays, that an action film doesn't need nine figures for it to be good, and that Keanu Reeves' best role since Ted Logan in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure was a trigger-happy assassin who will literally stab you with a pencil if you get in his way. It's no wonder that Chad Stohelski and David Leitch are now two of the most in-demand action directors out there. Brilliantly choreographed, brutally efficient, John Wick: Chapter 2 is probably one of the best action sequels ever made.
Few films have so effectively closed out a character in the way that Logan did. Taking several pages out of the playbook of Clint Eastwood and Unforgiven, Hugh Jackman's aging and grizzled features sit perfectly in the sepia-toned world that director James Mangold's created. The trappings of CGI and franchise-building are left behind, and instead the film goes to the core of what makes Logan / Wolverine what he is - and the cost of living such a violent life. While the likes of Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad might try to make for morally grey superhero stories, Logan actually succeeds because it doesn't get so caught up in itself. It's not a superhero story, it's a story that just so happens to feature superheroes.
There's precious few writer-directors who have made such a splash in their first film as Jordan Peele has with Get Out - and it's completely deserving of the praise that's been heaped upon it. Wickedly smart, darkly funny, searingly satirical, Get Out works both as a mirror for 'West Wing liberals' to view themselves - casting Bradley Whitford in the role being a particularly smart move - and as a straight horror film that could be easily pulled from a Richard Matheson script. Allison Williams' character, Rose Armitage, makes for one of the most fascinating performances you're likely to see this year. Peele's direction is understated when it needs to be, but it's the astute blending of horror, comedy and insight that makes Get Out the best film of the year so far.