Best and Worst 2023 films……

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Best and Worst 2023 films - here's out list.....

So its that time of the year when we get to name and shame the best and worst 2023 films. Now as some sort of caveat our list is probably more accurately best described as our favourite films rather than the best and we hold our our hands up to maybe not waxing lyrical about a revered yet obscure art house film. Equally there’s a big name director whose epic film is not on our list ( we’ll leave you to spot who it is and which film it is). So without any further ado here we go with our Best and Worst 2023 films starting with our best…..

 

Air

So this story about the rise in popularity of a sports shoe might not seem obvious but there’s something about Air that was compelling. Maybe its Matt Damon’s underdog working for Nike and sticking his neck out and putting his job on the line but getting sports star to endorse a trainer for Nike who at the time were a poor third to Adidas and Reebok. It’s a kind of business rags to extreme riches story but it is compellingly told with an inspiring boardroom speech by Damon that really gets you. Added to that is Viola Davis in another great performance as Jordan’s mum and the one who really cuts the greatest deal for her son and a reminder that quite often Mum does know best. Read our review HERE

 

Babylon

OK so this is the first of the divisive films on our list. Loved by us, hated by many, the film with cast led by Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt followed a starlet on the rise in the early days of Hollywood in a tale of excess that takes in sex and drugs and general outrage that shows how desperate the #TimesUp movement was needed decades previously. Following multiple characters in an era of decadent excess and depravity this was an epic film written and directed by Damian Chazelle  and was touted for Oscar success. Instead it landed only three nominations in  minor categories  winning none and perhaps the epic length at occasional controversial scenes that put audiences off. We really liked it though and think that this is probably one that audiences will rediscover  over the coming years. Read our review HERE

 

Blackberry

The second of two ‘business’ themed films of the year that we really liked. This was the rise and swift catastrophic fall of the Blackberry smartphone rivetingly told with three compelling performances most notably by Glenn Howerton as a high tech executive who seeing the phone as a ground breaking device, takes a job as a CEO at the company and with his bullish belligerent attitude turns the company into a multi billion company making it THE smartphone to have. The other two techies/CEO of the company are equally enjoyable as played by Jay Baruchel and Matt Johnson who also directs. It’s an exhilarating roller coaster ride knowing how the story will end in the most calamitous of ways. Brilliantly told it’s a small film with huge appeal and if there’s any justice Howerton should be reaping rewards for his performance alone. Read our review HERE

 

EO

So now we get a little sentimental with a kind of ‘road movie with a donkey’ story the ‘EO’ of the title. Encountering both the good and often extremely bad people it’s a mix of joy and often painful moments as the tale builds towards a conclusion that is enough to have you turning vegetarian. It’s easy to project emotion onto the static face of EO as it endures and enjoys the company of various people on his journey. It was rightly nominated for Best International Film at the 2023 Oscars and though it is a little overlong you can’t help but want to take care of the beleaguered donkey yourself before anymore happens to him. Read our review HERE

 

Evil Dead Rise

Well a new horror film is always a go to for fans of the genre and in fairness so many fail but this is only the fifth film in forty years and apart from the third film the franchise has maintained a remarkably even output.  After an initial opening sequence at the cabin in the woods ( giving us one of the best title sequences this year) this fifth film takes the film away from the cabin and into the city specifically an apartment  where a mum and her three kids are about be to be evicted as part of a repossession. Ironically they are all at risk of being satanically possessed when the evil dead spirits are reawakened accidently by her son and its only when their aunt visits that she can help save them all from being possessed. Written and directed by Irishman Lee Cronin this is very much in keeping with the gnarly tone of the previous films and there are several excellent brutal and gruesome set pieces  maintaining (that cheese grater scene will have you wincing) and no one is safe from the demons. Evil Dead Rise became the biggest box office earner of the franchise to date and Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell have promised that there won’t be such a gap between future films. Read our review HERE

We chatted to director Lee Cronin about the film…..

 John Wick 4

So whilst the summer blockbusters are nearly always actioners its John Wick 4 that set the standard yet again and the bar it set was almost impossibly high for others to match let alone surpass. Of epic length at almost three hours it saw Keanu Reeves return as the eponymous and seemingly indestructible hitman. Again it was all orchestrated by stuntman turned director Chad Stahelski with a number of astonishing set pieces that included one on a huge run of steps, another in the roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe and another shot from overhead like a Call of Duty gaming set peice. But as stunning as the action is, it was marched by the equally stunning photography beautifully captured as lit by DoP Dan Lauston and Paris hasn’t looked this beautiful on film in a very long time. This fourth film was extraordinary and continued setting the franchise apart from all others disproving the law of diminishing returns with each film proving more successful at the box office than the last with this fourth film being the most successful to date. Quite how they can top this would seem an impossible task but we’re willing to gamble that the film makers will give it a damn good try. Read our review HERE

 

Puss In Boots The Last Wish

If there’s one thing that Pixar taught the film industry it’s that adults can enjoy films intended for kids if there’s enough subtext and gags for them and Puss in Boots The Last Wish did just that. A spin off from Shrek the first film appeared in 2011 and was a success and yet it’s taken 11 years for a sequel. Perhaps audiences had forgotten about the first film and this was a bit of a slow burn for audiences to return to but word began to spread and the film earned a respectable $481m and earned a Best Animated Feature Film Oscar nomination eventually losing out to its only serious competitor Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio. Read our review HERE

 

Sisu

Every now and again a film comes out of nowhere that we know nothing about and you go along to see it not really knowing what to expect. Sisu was that film. A lively trailer only hinted at the most violent actioner on the big screen surpassing the hyper stylized violence of John Wick 4. A foreign language film from director Jalmari Helander whose previous films included Big Game starring Samuel L Jackson. The film is set during the latter days of WWII and  follows an ex-soldier Aatami  who discovers gold in Lapland but then encounters a platoon of Nazis led by a brutal SS officer. To quote Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basatards, ‘Any son of a bitch we find wearing a Nazi uniform……they’re going to die’ and that’s what Aatami sets about doing in the most spectacularly bloody and often inventive ways. Increasingly daft with Aatami seemingly indestrutible this is a great Saturday night bit of hokum. Read our review HERE

The Creator

An epic sci-fi film written and directed by Gareth Edwards whose previous included Rogue One and Godzilla but this was proof that astonishing visuals don’t need a bumper budget and stunningly original spectacle cost less than $100m and showed that the studios should be brave enough to finance original bigger budget films if they can be pulled in for less than a nine figure budget. I’ts not without its issues but the story of humans battling AI is a prescient one in light of the fears raised about the rise of AI today. Unfortunately it didn’t do much business and certainly nowhere near enough to prompt a sequel but The Creator is one that deserves to be seen ideally on  IMAX to take in the remarkable landscapes and action set pieces. Read our review HERE

Gareth Edwards introduces the UK premiere….

The Killer

And finally what turned out to be our favourite film of the year.   A Netflix film from David Fincher who, like more and more directors, are only too happy to take advantage of a studio/streamer who won’t interfere in their vision and give them the budget to do so. The story of the hitman is one that has been seen so many times before and this is adapted from a best selling graphic novel having been developed for years. Not to be confused with John Woo’s astonishing 1989 actioner the film saw an assassin botch a hit and goes up the chain of employers and enablers who have come after him. The film saw Michael Fassbender return to starring roles after taking a three year absence from films after a series of flops and it was a great return to form for both actor and director. As precisely shot as is expected from Fincher the film is split into chapters in keeping with the book as the assassin works his way up the chain and the film is eminently re-watchable with Easter eggs that include the hitman’s aliases that are TV character names being just one. Read our review HERE

Godzilla Minus One

So we’ve had a number of Hollywood versions of the iconic Studio Toho monster Godzilla that began with 1998’s Godzilla from Roland Emmerich followed by another in 2014 as part of a Monster-verse that saw the creature from the deep have a bit of a ruccous with King Kong. All have been of varyng quality but its taken a reboot from Toho with a film headed up by director and effects wizard Takashi Yamazaki to show how it should be done. returning the film its it Japanese origins and resetting the film in a post WWII era that puts the monster in context as a reaction to the Nagasaki & Hiroshima nuclear bombing its a superb realization of Godzilla with brilliantly staged set pieces and and impressive looking Godzilla. Read our review HERE

 

………………….And so to the worst!

 

Book Club The Next Chapter

It’s always something of a warning signal when a film  relies on a pun for its title and this was no different. A sequel to the 2018 hit saw Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen all looking their age as ladies on the look out for love along with Jane Fonda whose appearance in the film is one of the living embodiment of photoshop filters.  A cursory story sees the four friends on a jaunt in  Italy in the lead up to  Fonda’s wedding. Aimed firmly at the silver surfer audience perhaps even they might draw a line at the thought of the sexual shenanigans of an eighty something Jane Fonda with another pensioner being akin to having the contents of a hoover bag poured emptied over you. Read our review HERE

Our instagram visit to a special screening HERE

Marcel with the shell on

Now this was a stop motion / live action hybrid based on the youtube series about a mollusc called Marcel found in the house of a documentary maker who decides to make him the subject of his new film and how the shell has been left alone there and not knowing where his family are. It’s as twee as it sounds, Indulgent  and overlong too and we were very much in a  minority with this none with the film somehow earing a Best Animated Film Oscar nomination. It is nicely animated but tits cutesy – ness was wearing and ultimately irritating that had you wishing for a toddler to just put us all out of our misery by gluing Marcel into some dried pasta and sea shells school project. Read our review HERE

 

Expendables 4

The Expendables had been a great idea with Stallone that put all of those old school action stars into one film to kick ass one last time. The first film had that appeal, the second film had more old school stars on board and helmed by Brit director Simon West who knows how to put a sequence together after Con Air and then a third film which saw a distinct tail off. A delayed fourth film was the actioner that nobody wanted with an amalgam of poor scripting, vanilla set pieces , ropey CGI and Megan Fox I  a crop top pretending to be a soldier. Worse still it saw Stallone relegated to a handful of scenes and the film now a generic actioner with Statham taking over as the lead star with the others relegated to set dressing there solely to make Megan Fox as eye candy look even better. That the film barely scraped $37m spoke volumes. If a fifth film is ever made then shoot me now. Read our review HERE

Our instagram visit to a special screening HERE

Magic Mikes Last Dance

An almost obligatory third film to round off the trilogy it succeeded in reminding the housewives that this was squarely aimed at, that after nigh on two hours of oiled up beefcake on screen they would be going home to lard arsed muffin top partners. This time it saw Channing Tatum’s male stripper now moneyless once more after a business deal goes South and reduced to working as a bar tender until a wealthy socialite brings him to London with a chance to put together a new troupe of hot dancers. So whilst the first film was an insight into those male dance troupes based on Tatum’s own early years in that business this third film is  reduced to oiled up males bumping and grinding and in age of where this would have never been made with women in the roles ( and rightly so) it can’t be right for it to have men equally to be portrayed in such an overtly sexual manner too. But that aside the plotting was obvious offering no real surprises but just more of the same old same old. And with the film barely scraping $57m audiences seemed to agree. Read our review HERE

 

My Big Fat Greek Eedding 3

One wedding was enough thanks and a third film with its pedestrian  story with nothing out of the ordinary happening had all the unexpected revelations of a cabinet minister returning home to find his wife in bed and Boris Johnson hiding in the bedroom wardrobe. Read our review HERE

Our instagram visit to a special screening HERE

 

Exorcist Believer

For many expectation was high for a film inspired by an original film whose reputation was hugely influential and often regarded as one of the most frightening  films ever made. And yet its subsequent films were cursed. A first sequel is still regarded as possibly the worst horror sequel ever, a third film that was far better though wasn’t really a film about Exorcism at all, a fourth film that the studio dropped because it was too heavy with theology and a fifth film that was a narrative mess with ropey CGI. So it was a brave director who took it on and here it was David Gordon Green who had rebooted the Halloween franchise with a new trilogy that disappointed with each subsequent film. Here his sequel saw two girls disappear into the woods returning three days later with no memory of what happened – effectively a female equivalent of our Editors stag night. But the girls are possessed and the inevitable exorcism follows that made the mistake of moving away from the Catholicism of the first film that rooted itself in the process of a church sanctioned exorcism  and took in a multi faith approach to no discernible benefit. It had wholly misunderstood the power and effect of the original film and though the film did respectable business making $135m it us difficult to see how an envisioned trilogy might proceed. Read our review HERE

Our instagram visit to a special screening HERE

 

…………………..and the one that we’re still undecided on!

 

Beau is Afraid

Now writer / director Ari Aster had made a phenomenal impact with his horror films Hereditary and Midsommar and expectation was high for his third film Beau is Afraid. With Joaquin Phoenix as Beau the film saw him embark on a journey home after the death of his mother. The films first act is truly great with Beau living in his apartment when outside it is hell and its brilliantly realized with several great moments but then as he goes on his journey home all hell unfolds and the film becomes something else but quite what is anyone’s guess. Everything is thrown into the mix and there’s as much that is compelling as there is that’s utterly baffling and arguably extraneous. There’s no doubting the technical excellence at play here but trying to make head or tail of what can best be described as ‘Kafkaesque’  is exhausting, infuriating or dull and often all three. We have colleagues who utterly hate this, as did we initially , but others (only a few admittedly) who love it and over half a year later we still can’t decide if this is brilliant or bollocks. Read our review HERE

Let us know if you agree with our choices…..

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