The 18 best films of 2017

We round up the best and most memorable movies that have graced our silver screens this year

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

From Hollywood remakes to highly anticipated sequels, and a slew of superhero flicks (yes, we're counting The Lego Batman Movie as a superhero film) – here are our picks of the films that we fell in love with, made us cry and laugh to in the theatres this year.

RECOMMENDED:  The best Singaporean films of 2017

Coco
Film

Coco

After a few iffy efforts – at least by its own lofty standards – Pixar follows the marvelously mind-bending 'Inside Out' with a Mexico-set adventure that bubbles with wit and daring. Effortlessly gliding between kid-friendly spectacle and heart-tugging emotion by way of surrealist touches and a hilariously specific recurring joke about Frida Kahlo’s unibrow, 'Coco' is a goofy joy from start to finish. Committing full bore to its setting – Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival – 'Coco' introduces its hero, 12-year-old Miguel (voiced by newcomer Anthony Gonzalez), as a frustrated musician growing up in a family where music is banned. On the eve of the festivities, he pays a visit to an ofrenda, his clan’s ancestral altar, where an encounter with a magical guitar sends him spinning into the afterlife on a quest to find his great-great-grandfather, a puffed-up matinee idol, and win his blessing to become a musician. Cue songs, color and a shady prankster called Héctor (voiced by Gael García Bernal) with a speciality in physical comedy. There’s a scrappy canine sidekick, skeletons galore and beautifully imagined barrios crammed into this undead fantasia. It’s a glorious tribute to Mexican tradition that tips a sombrero to the animated work of Ray Harryhausen and Hayao Miyazaki, too. The story occasionally seems a little too deferential to its folkloric inspirations. Giant spirit animals swoop in and out of the action, shifting characters from A to B a touch too conveniently. They f

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Film

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rolling up with the kind of intergalactic swagger that gives us a cosmically infuriating phone prank within the first five minutes, ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ is a work of supreme confidence: witty, wild and free to roam unexplored territory. If JJ Abrams’s franchise-rebooting ‘The Force Awakens’ (2015) was the creation of a boy who lovingly dusted off old toys and put them through their expected poses, its superior sequel is made by a more inventive kid – maybe one with a sideline as his block’s most inspired D&D Dungeon Master –who asks: Why can’t a Rebel fleet be commanded by Laura Dern in a purple wig? Why can’t we have planets of blood-red sand, herds of rampaging alien cattle or adorable puffin-esque porgs invading the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon like wannabe copilots? That kid is writer-director Rian Johnson, previously a maker of such mind-colonising indies as ‘Brick’ and ‘Looper’. Here, he’s been given awesome licence to steer this beloved series into hyperspace. (His chapter should be studied by Hollywood execs tempted to entrust their billion-dollar properties to the humourless.) ‘The Last Jedi’ scrapes the psychologically dark edge of George Lucas’s original middle chapter, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, but carries that grandeur with ease. Centrally, Johnson creates a running head-to-head dialogue – almost a mystical form of FaceTime – between Rey (Daisy Ridley), rising warrior of the Resistance, and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, as tortured as he was in Martin Scorse

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Paddington 2
Film

Paddington 2

However cynical a pose you try to maintain, Paddington Bear will find the chinks in your armour. Voiced with perfect innocence by Ben Whishaw and gorgeously animated by Framestore, this profoundly likeable bear consistently toes the line of maximum charm without slipping into schmaltz. Miraculously, that’s also as true of this sequel as it was of his first big-screen outing, as the film goes bigger and darker without losing focus on the small acts of kindness that make its ursine hero great.As we rejoin Paddington and his adoptive family, the Browns, our hero is searching for the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s (voiced by Imelda Staunton) 100th birthday. He finds just the ticket in Mr Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) antique shop: a unique pop-up book. But while Paddington is saving up for it, a nefarious rival steals the book and frames Paddington for the crime. It’s no great spoiler to reveal that the baddie is Hugh Grant’s faded actor Phoenix Buchanan, a flamboyant weirdo who’s calibrated his levels of high camp to within reach of the summit of Everest. The plot has a whodunnit-and-how-do-we-prove-it element here that is a little more complex than last time, but crucially director Paul King and his co-writer Simon Farnaby once again show a perfect feel for Paddington’s humour, strengths and effect on the world. The bear’s guileless politeness even enables him to win over Brendan Gleeson’s Knuckles McGinty, the terrifying bully who rules Portobello Prison with an iron ladle. T

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Baby Driver
Film

Baby Driver

Music sounds better when you’re on the road. In ‘Baby Driver’, ‘Shaun of the Dead’ director Edgar Wright takes the car-chase action film – loaded with tyre squeals – and weds it to a cracking jukebox playlist. The result is the most supercharged piece of motorised choreography since John Landis destroyed a fleet of cop cars in ‘The Blues Brothers’. Wright’s hero, Baby (‘The Fault in Our Stars’ actor Ansel Elgort), still has a hint of peach fuzz on his cheeks, but he’s a genius with a gearstick. A getaway driver with dreams of going straight, Baby needs music to drown out the tinnitus-induced buzz in his head. Unlike the more violent and existential vehicular visions seen in ‘Drive’ or ‘Bullitt’, ‘Baby Driver’ is sweet fantasy. That means its two-bit thieves and criminal masterminds (Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey) are enjoyably cartoonish; the same goes for Baby’s waitress crush, Debora (Lily James), the kind of broad-smiling cutie that filmmakers always seem to dream about. Their romance is nourished with doe-eyed looks and Beach Boys-scored dreaminess, but the movie doesn’t know what to do with it, except hatch a plan to ‘head west and never stop’. The chances are you won’t mind: the action sequences here, imbued with humour and break-on-a-dime timing, are the most beautifully sustained and jaw-dropping of Wright’s career. You’ll be rewinding them in your head for days.

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Thor: Ragnarok
Film

Thor: Ragnarok

If you’ve been waiting for a superhero movie with the line, ‘Guys, we’re coming up on The Devil’s Anus’, we have very good news: Marvel’s ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is that movie. Irreverent, helter-skelter, more colourful than an Oompa Loompa’s cheese dream and just a little off its Ragnarocker (in the best way), it has all the hallmarks of a franchise confident enough to throw the ball to the most singular filmmakers and let them run with it. Take a bow, then, director Taika Waititi. The New Zealander’s offbeat comic sensibility has somehow parlayed straight from indie gems like ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ and ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ and on to a canvas a hundred times bigger. There are jokes galore, a headily ’80s vibe, one A-list cameo for the ages and a scene-stealing rock monster called Korg (mo-capped by Waititi himself, presumably on his day off). To crank up the giddiness levels even further, Jeff Goldblum pitches up as the hedonist Grandmaster, a kind of intergalactic Peter Stringfellow who presides over a gladiatorial arena on the glitz-sheened junk planet of Sakaar. The story picks up two years after the events of ‘Age of Ultron’ with a lost and hammerless Thor (Chris Hemsworth, showing off his comedy chops) washing up on Sakaar, where the now perma-furious Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is a gladiatorial hero. But it’s the Grandmaster’s unwitting match-up of the Avengers’ two waifs and strays that really stirs the plot. The pair are pitched first into screen-juddering combat, and

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Dunkirk
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Dunkirk

You might already know how the evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940 turned out: how over 300,000 mainly British troops escaped from the beach and harbour of a northern French port while being bombarded by the Nazis. But the power of Christopher Nolan’sharrowing, unusual war film is that it tries hard, with real success, not to make any of this feel like just another war movie. Instead there’s a strong sense of this bloody, strange event unfolding in the unknowable way that those on the ground might have experienced it. It’s awe-inspiring and alienating, perhaps as it should be. At less than two hours (brief for the director of ‘The Dark Knight’ films and ‘Interstellar’) and keeping dialogue to a bare minimum, ‘Dunkirk’ gives us a short, sharp dose of the oddness and horror of war, dropping us right into the fray. It’s a staggering feat of immersive terror, blessed with such knockout photography that it has to be seen on a massive screen if at all possible (Nolan shot the film in two large formats, Imax and 65mm). It looks, feels and sounds like a nightmare, balancing naked suffering (drowning, shooting, shelling, crashing, burning) with a strong hint of otherworldliness: Nazi propaganda leaflets spookily dropping from the sky; strange foam washing up on the sand, dislocating aerial shots of sea meeting land. Nolan gives us three interlocking chapters, offering three different perspectives. There’s ‘The Mole, One Week’, taking place on the harbour wall from which thousands were

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Logan
Film

Logan

America lies on the brink of ruin in this bleak and bruising comic-book road movie. It’s 2029 and Logan aka James Howlett aka The Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is working as a limo driver in El Paso, Texas, occasionally hopping over the Mexican border to deliver much-needed pharmaceuticals to his Alzheimer's-stricken former mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). The mutant race has been all but wiped out thanks to a combination of shady government interference and Charles's own inability to control his powers. But when Logan is tasked with looking after Laura (Dafne Keen), the first mutant child born in decades, he's forced to make a decision: keep running, or gear up for one final stand. Jackman has repeatedly suggested that 'Logan' will mark his farewell to a character he's been tied to for 17 years and seven films. If so, it's a fitting swansong: in stark contrast to most Marvel movies, particularly last year's peppy but pointless 'X-Men: Apocalypse', this feels more like a wake than a party. The colours are muted, all rust-red and glowering grey, and the themes are weighty: loss, ageing and deep, almost unbearable regret. We're never given a full picture of how the world got so messed up, just glimpses of institutional brutality and corporate power, of ordinary people ground under the heel of an increasingly uncaring system. Given that the film went into production well before the earth-shaking events of November 2016, it all feels frighteningly prescient. It's also, with

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
War for the Planet of the Apes
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War for the Planet of the Apes

An evolution of the tech-heavy Hollywood blockbuster, the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise is a Darwinian dream come true. These movies have captured a soulfulness that’s different from anything else out there. ‘Apes’ wrangler, director and co-writer Matt Reeves (‘Cloverfield’) has steered the concept into ethically complex territory, beginning with 2014’s second chapter, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’. He now surpasses himself with a broodingly downbeat epic set 15 years after the outbreak of the civilisation-killing simian flu. As you’ll have guessed from the title, it’s a war film, but not just any war. From the scrawled markings on the human soldiers’ helmets – ‘Monkey Killer’ – to the bald, bellicose colonel straight out of ‘Apocalypse Now’ (Woody Harrelson, doing his best bug-eyed Brando), this film rewages the war of Vietnam, complete with its tangle of self-negating righteousness and mission drift. Once again our hero is Caesar (Andy Serkis in a motion-captured triumph that eclipses even his beloved Gollum – the effects here are close to magical), sensitive leader of the apes who suffers a calamitous blow to his family after a sneak attack. His peaceful nature rocked by a desire for vengeance, Caesar departs with a small detachment of shaggy aides-de-camp to intercept the humans while his tribe heads for shelter. Apart from pulling off the unique trick of having us root for human extinction, ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ foregrounds a beautiful tension between t

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Spider-Man: Homecoming
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Spider-Man: Homecoming

‘Couldn’t you just be a friendly, neighbourhood Spider-Man?’ asks Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) of his 15-year-old webslinging protegé Peter Parker (Tom Holland), fearing that the high schooler is going to tangle with the wrong bad guy and end up in more trouble than he can handle. And indeed ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ offers a welcome narrowing of the Marvel mega-verse, away from alien invasions and globe-smashing supervillains and back towards something more local and intimate. The film’s villain, flight-suited arms manufacturer The Vulture (Michael Keaton), doesn’t even want to rule the world: he’s just chasing a fast buck to feed his family. The problem is that he’s willing to sacrifice innocent lives to achieve that goal – starting with Peter’s. ‘Homecoming’ isn’t strictly an origin story: there’s no radioactive spider bite, no wow-I-can-lift-a-car-now moment. This is about a young man figuring out what to do with the power he’s already acquired, while also navigating the pitfalls of everyday teenagerhood. It’s light and breezy – and perhaps a little throwaway, at times. It’s also dizzingly entertaining. Holland brings just the right blend of goofy and gallant – we genuinely like this kid, even when his cockiness threatens to get out of hand. He’s handed a perfect foil in the form of Ned (Jacob Batalon), the traditional chubby sidekick with a touch more depth. And despite what the trailers might suggest, Tony Stark’s regular cameos don’t unbalance the film: he’s more gu

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Beauty and the Beast
Film

Beauty and the Beast

The virtue of courage is high up on the list of Disney princess must-haves (just below kindness, beauty and a strapping prince in tight trousers). And three cheers for director Bill Condon and star Emma Watson for having the courage to make a live-action musical adaptation of the adored 1991 animation with 2017 gender politics and a diverse cast. Not only is Belle the most feminist Disney princess ever, 'Beauty and the Beast' also features the first (and second) ever interracial kiss in a live-action Disney movie and the first openly gay character in a Disney movie fullstop. And it's all done with a lovely feeling of integrity too.This is a lavish pull-out-all-the-stops musical. Watson brings sincerity to the role of Belle, the only bookworm in the village in eighteenth-century France. (Her singing isn’t bad either). Luke Evans is hilarious as her sexist meathead suitor Gaston, whose charming chat-up lines include: ‘Do you know what happens to spinsters in the village when their fathers die? They beg for scraps.’ Josh Gad (Olaf the snowman in ‘Frozen’) is his adoring sidekick Le Fou. The pair’s get-a-room bromance is a highlight.Belle’s inventor dad (Kevin Kline) is on his way to market when he takes a wrong turn and finds himself locked in the gothic castle belonging to Beast (Dan Stevens from ‘Downton’, hiding behind a furry face). Of course, the Beast is actually a dashing prince, transformed by a kind witch as punishment for his cold-heartedness. Only true love – as Célin

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
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