diehard2Hi I’m Former U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel William Stuart, and I am just preparing to rescue General Ramon Esperanza, the rightful ruler of the made up South American country Val Verde. I have a foolproof plan to hold an airport hostage, at which point I will grab Esperanza’s plane, fly him home and where I and my men have been promised lots of money by his legitimate businessmen allies. As preparation there is nothing I like doing than flexing naked infront of a mirror – I believe it makes me more intimidating and not silly, even though it does mean some people call me the Nudey German (even though I am not German). Anyway I am sure my foolproof plan will work, and not be foiled by some meddling cop on holiday who is only trying to meet his wife. Even if that does happen, I am sure I won’t get blown up and thus be unable to watch the Freakytrigger best films of 2017 numbers 30-21 except in vain-glorious hell.

Thanks William, I prefered you in Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey. Here are the next ten movies, including an exciting four way tie for 23.

30: Colossal

Here is a film with a bizarre premise that actually has a solid dramatic arc and masks some surprisingly powerful character work behind a tale of giant monsters fighting. Its like the good old days of Charlie Kaufman, and here that spirit is channelled by Nacho Vigalondo in a deft melding of indie drama and kaiju movie. Anne Hathaway is great as the drunk Gloria who discovers a bigger purpose, and Jason Sudekis cleverly has enough self loathing in his nice guy character that when you ask “who was the real monster” at the end of the film it is clear what the answer is (its the monster). Fun, funny but with some genuine meat on its bones.

29: The Death Of Stalin

Armando Ianucci’s satire is whip fast but perhaps not as funny as some people expected. This is primarily due to the subject matter, despite playing a little fast and loose with some of the timeline, the film wants to get the feel right and so no matter how dark you can make the comedy there are still moments when thousands of real people are ending up dead. The instincts to farce remain strong however, and the instincts to play with the kind of central obsequious doublespeak pays dividends. The broad rang of comic skills in the cast seals the deal, a lot goes on, and a lot is said – but it manages to be a bit slightly more resonant than just a dark farce.

28: The Red Turtle

I could write the plot of The Red Turtle in about two sentences, and you would give me a stern hard look about the middle part of the movie. So I will give you sentence one: a man is shipwrecked on a desert island, and keeps getting his escape attempts thwarted by a gigantic red turtle. Simplistic story and animation blend to create a giant fable or creation myth, and the film’s simplicity does win it some depth, as does its silence. I was worried it might be a bit too basic, but it has lingered with me through the year, and short of Moana turning up to sort out the shipwreck, it is near perfect.

27: The Other Side Of Hope

Aki Kaurismäki’s droll tone has been pretty consistent throughout his career, never mind how light or dark his subject matter, but the big issues of humanity seem to be hanging on him over his last few films. The Other Side Of Hope is about a Syrian refugee trying to survive within, and outside the system, and a newly single businessman who crosses paths with him. Humanistic, occasionally very funny (there is a set piece sushi sequence which is excellent) I was disappointed by its pessimistic outlook and felt it drifted from the director’s strengths into near preachiness. But even what I think is minor Kaurismäki is strong work.

23= Logan Lucky

Steven Soderbergh comes out of retirement for this hugely enjoyable caper movie, which is superficially a blue collar Ocean’s Eleven but with a lot more emotionally and politically going on under the hood of its souped up NASCAR ride. It is centred around Channing Tatum and ans Adam Driver’s Logan brothers who play up their dumb stereotyp but are anything but – and their sister Riley Keough who is a lot subtler than you might think. Maybe it falls apart a touch in the last act, with Hilary Swank doing her best Eastwood impression, but Daniel Craig’s Joe Bang is always around the corner for a laugh and you remember why you always liked Soderbergh in the first place.

23= Jackie

On first viewing I thought Natalie Portman was too mannered in her performance as Jackie Kennedy, there was too much self-consciousness in her portrayal. And then I realised with a little bit of original footage, that not only is it a terrific version of Jackie, but the point of the film: Jackie is always performing, and has to. Its a dour film, being set just after JFK’s assassination, but it does the best this kind of historical drama can do at engaging you in the events as well as the person. The framing device, which I originally felt was too on the nose, turned out to also be a pretty accurate representation of a latter interview. Pablo Larrain has made an artefact which in taking the Kennedy presidency from a side angle, shines a lot more light on it than many of the John-centric stories.

23= Guardians Of The Galaxy 2

A dayglo rainbow shake of a movie, full of pop-rocks and fizzy sherbert and not much else. It does what most good sequels do, gets bigger, more confident and doesn’t get too bogged down when it throws new characters in the mix. With an already large ensemble it also does the thing lots of not so good sequels do, split the team up to have separate adventures even though the real selling point of the previous movie was its team chemistry. Nevertheless as a dizzy pop culture artefact it has plenty of gags, fun soundtrack songs and and least one jawdroppingly visual scene. The fact that said scene also includes the murder of 20 characters should be more of a problem than it it…

23= Hidden Figures

Whilst it hits all the beats of an inspirational true life story, Hidden Figures plays its hand partially with novelty and partially with excellent performances. Our super-maths heroes have always been white males, often British, nearly always in Universities where being good at Maths has to be juxtaposed by some life trauma. In Hidden Figures our three mathematicians are black women, real and – oh yeah – their life trauma is the entirity of racist America. In the three central roles Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae are compelling, funny and determined against the system they slowly break down which is pretty monolithic. And the maths isn’t bad too.

22:The Lego Batman Movie

This sideways sequel to The Lego Movie takes that films most iconically ridiculous character, and dials him up to 11. In a world that now happily accepts multiple takes on Batman at the same time (and tends to not prefer the Ben Affleck version), this daftly animated blockbuster reaches for joke after joke affectionately poking the fun out of the character, whilst creating an arrogant version we want to see have the piss ripped out of. It does get a bit exhausting by the final reel, but it was probably the funniest film I saw last year.

21: God’s Own Country

Micro-budget British hit which manages to fold a number of hot button issues into a gloriously tender romance. I’ve always been a little suspicious of “rugged” British films, the landscape doesn’t always cut the mustard, but here there is a real sense of the difficulty of working the land, the loneliness of farming life and above all else mud. But the film is all about masculinity and pride and what decisions are important to us, plus the inabilty of people to accept or articulate their own desires. A terrific debut from Francis Lee who manages to turn the most physical of actions into tender non-verbal communication.

Come back soon (but you know, not that soon) for the next ten.