❶ T2 Trainspotting
The Godfather 2 is the only other sequel I can think of that actually improved on its fabulous predecessor. Director Danny Boyle, again collaborating with writer John Hodge, returns to Edinburgh to see how his bad boys (Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewen McGregor and Ewen Bremner) have fared over the last twenty years. It’s film of beautiful melancholy, poignant flashbacks, wicked dialogue and outrageously funny set pieces (‘no more Catholics left!’).
The evacuation of thousands of troops from Dunkirk in 1940 was an epic event in twentieth-century history. At the mercy of the German army and airforce, annihilation was imminent. That a flotilla of privately owned vessels brought the men back to England, snatching a morale-boosting victory from what had been a disastrous defeat, was a miracle. Christopher Nolan’s magnificent movie does it justice, embracing the big picture without losing sight of the individual. Awesome.
❸ War for the Planet of the Apes
Along with Rise Of … (2011) and Dawn of … (2014), this has been a fantastic series, worthy in every way of the 1968 classic that spawned it (who could ever forget that last scene of utter despair when Charlton Heston comes upon the remains of the Statue of Liberty?). Caesar has absorbed the human desire for vengeance and he leads his fellow apes into battle with a Kurtz-like colonel who is bent on wiping out Caesar’s species. Gripping and profound.
❹ Ingrid Goes West
Ingrid is a facile young woman who is hopelessly addicted to social media, and to one celebrity who is ‘famous for being famous’ in particular. Stalking her idol in Los Angeles until she contrives to meet up with her, Ingrid’s behaviour makes you cringe with pity and seethe with anger at its stupidity. In the end, you throw your hands up in despair, knowing that Ingrid is everywhere these days. Topical, alarming and sad.
❺ Their Finest
A film that doffs its cap to those who contributed to the defeat of Nazi Germany by making movies that rallied the population and lifted the spirits of those in uniform. Gemma Arterton is gorgeous and Bill Nighy perfect as the precious actor past his prime in a weepy tribute to cinema’s unique ability to make us love and care for other people and, through that experience, better understand who we are.
Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) is a wannabe New York mover and shaker. Persistent despite countless knock-backs, his life is changed when he meets an Israeli politician outside an exclusive menswear store, strikes up a conversation and eventually buys a pair of obscenely expensive shoes for him. It’s so beautifully acted, as is the scene where Norman is asked to leave an A-list soiree to which he has not been invited. He is a man you can’t help feeling for.
❼ The Edge of Seventeen
American teen flicks have a tradition of being downright awful (to anybody who is not a teen) or, occasionally, smart and uplifting, with little in between. Kelly Fremon Craig’s movie came under the radar to our screens, but declared itself unequivocally to be part of the latter group. Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) can’t cope with what she sees as her miserable existence, but finds a confidante in her history teacher (Woody Harrelson). Growing up is never easy, but love softens life’s blows.
❽ Land of Mine
In Denmark, after the end of WWII, prisoners of war were held back in order to clear the thousands of mines that the Germans laid as a defence against an expected allied invasion. Wanting only to go home, the boys’ terrifying task was made worse by deprivation and uncaring captors. The Danish sergeant overseeing them eventually befriends his charges and, his humanity awakened, disobeys an order to save them. Beautiful.
❾ Rosalie Blum
A French comedy-drama with a mystery threaded through it, this is one of those adorably poignant films that have become as rare as hens’ teeth in this age of overblown CGI and green-screens. Vincent, a hairdresser in the provincial city of Nevers, is obsessed with forty-something, detached and damaged Rosalie. Warm and wise, with a completely unforeseen outcome, it’s a movie that stays with you.
❿ American Made
Sometimes there is nothing else you can do but give grudging credit where it is due. Tom Cruise, despite looking a wee bit flabby in his face and fat around the arse, might have been born to play the part of Barry Seal, the brash, egotistical pilot who gets out of his depth when dealing with arms and drug runners and a shady CIA agent. A true story that is stranger than fiction.
The Joe Cockers
Logan, Going In Style, Snatched, The Shack, The Mummy, The House, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Girls Trip, Blade Runner 2049, Daddy’s Home 2.