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Ingrid Goes West (2017)
I've always been an Aubrey Plaza fan ever since she was on Parks and Rec. She perfected the dead pan, dry, and sarcastic kind of person we all know. But lately she has proven herself to be more versatile than that with Legion and now this. This is a difficult film and role to pull off, but Plaza and Matt Spicer are able to with a dark sense of humor. Everyone in this cast is great with O'Shea Jackson proving that he is a new actor to watch out for. The ending to this a lot seem to not like but I think it sticks the landing perfectly.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)
Craig Zahler is just the person we need for good pulpy, grindhouse throwbacks. He knows how make you emotionally connect and care about these people even when they are doing bad things (but he never makes excuses for them). The violence in this will make you wince but you can't help but watch. But I think what really sells this is Vince Vaughn's performance. This is the best thing he has done in years and I look forward to more dramatic work from him.
It makes sense Macon Blair directed and wrote this since it shares a lot of similarities to his first starring role in Blue Ruin. Like that film, it takes a lot of tropes/cliches of a certain genre and flips them. With this being the classic vigilante/righting wrongs story, these are not badass heroes or evil criminal masterminds. These feel like real people. Melanie Lynskey was captivating and she makes her sadness understandable and you really root for her to win. Elijah Wood was a blast and he had great chemistry with Lynskey. The third act too is crazy and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. This one has flied under the radar which is a shame cause I'd like to see more from Blair.
Wonder Woman (2017)
In an increasingly pessimistic society, it feels like even our superheroes are becoming more and more cynical. That's why it was so nice to get a movie like this. Gal Gadot plays that idealism well while also realizing not everyone in the world is good. You want to see her kick ass. Chris Pine as her friend and companion was great too as the much needed realism to counter her optimism. Patty Jenkins really balances out the action and emotion well and she should be directing more.
Who would have guessed that a Star Wars film would have been so polarizing? I for one loved it and feel like it is taking the series in a much needed unexpected direction. It helps that it has the classic Star Wars action but this is surprisingly much more a character study. It's trying to understand people who are drawn to the force and those who stick to the dogma of the force. All these new characters will be classics with John Boyega as Finn being one of my favorite Star Wars characters. Mark Hamill of course is always perfect. But I can't help but be amazed at Adam Driver's performance. He has created a new classic villain. This is an evil man who is still complicated and you kind of get where he is coming from. It isn't a coincidence that a lot of people love Kylo Ren. This all in all was just a fun and exciting Star Wars movie that I think will be looked on more fondly.
Good Time (2017)
This reminds me of something that Sidney Lumet would have directed. It's slow paced but not boring. It builds a world that you become fully invest in even if you don't fully understand it. But more importantly, it has characters who even when they are doing bad things you can't help but love every character on screen. Buddy Duress plays one of those characters and I look forward to more performances from him in the future. Robert Pattinson though is the one that everyone is talking about and with good reason. This is a desperate man. Not some awesome, gangster badass you get typically in these movies. He might not always make the best decisions, but he helps you understand why it is happening. The Safdie Bros. are ones who will continue to make great films.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
The first Blade Runner came out over 30 years ago and people still talk about it. It has influenced countless movies both aesthetically and the themes it presents. I have a feeling this movie will too. The cast is great but the real stars are Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins. I was captivated by what was on screen and I wanted to explore the world more. Being that this is a noir, Villeneuve is able to keep you invested even at nearly 3 hours. This also seems like a movie that will get better and better on repeat viewing.
The Shape of Water (2017)
A movie about a woman who falls in love with a fish creature in a government facility is a hard movie to sell but it is very much worth it. Like a lot of Guillermo Del Toro's work, at its heart it is a fairy tale. And like a lot of fairy tales, it is filled with great heroes and evil villains. People like Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Michael Shannon all bring something to the table and make their characters compelling. But this is all Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones' movie. Hawkins takes a difficult role and knocks it out of the park while Jones continues to show why he is one of the most underrated performers in Hollywood. I don't want to delve into too much of this movie as I think this should be an experience everyone discovers.
Girls Trip (2017)
Probably the most I have laughed at the movies this year. Everyone is funny in their own way and I never got tired of seeing anyone on screen. But this was clearly Tiffany Haddish's movie to steal. She plays that friend everyone has who is crazy and funny but has your back no matter what. Haddish really does deserve an Oscar nomination as she shows why a fantastic comedic performance is just as award worthy as a dramatic role.
John Wick: Chapter Two (2017)
Takes all the best things about the first one and amplifies it to 11. With this sequel, John Wick becomes one of the best action franchises and Keanu Reeves' best work. This film really shows you the attention and choreography that goes into making and shooting an action scene. It is an art and every scene is a blast to watch. I just love the atmosphere of this and the world building it does with the rules of an assassin. It set up a great third movie and if this is any indication, it will be even better.
James Mangold has made one of the best comic book/superhero movies of all time. This is a superhero movie but also a Western, drama, sci-fi thriller, post apocalyptic action epic, and ultimately a redemption tale. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart both give award worthy performances with Stewart especially giving some of the best work of his career as Professor X. The discovery of Dafne Keen is great as she balances out the outright craziness of her powers but still being a little kid. It's really fitting how this ends for Wolverine as I grew up with Jackman as this classic character. It ended perfectly.
The Disaster Artist (2017)
A lot has been said about The Room. It technically might be considered a bad film but it is also very entertaining and more enjoyable than most movies. Tommy Wiseau has also become a bit of a cultural icon and mystery. James Franco explores that and I think he not only does a fantastic job he also humanizes Wiseau. This isn't just an impression or a performance that is making fun of him. He actually helps you understand why he is so determined and helps you see just why so many artists are so dedicated to their craft. Franco doesn't shy away from his flaws, quirks, and tendencies. It truly is a performance deserving of nominations and wins. It's anchored by a great cast too that helps ground it. Also, it's hilarious. I recommend everyone checking this out along with The Room.
Baby Driver (2017)
Edgar Wright hasn't made a bad movie yet and with this one he shows why he is one of the best working directors today. This is basically an action musical. All the action scenes are set to the beat of the songs on Baby's Ipod. It totally works and I was in awe of the action scenes. The songs chosen too fit perfectly and I loved every single one. But that doesn't really matter if you don't have great characters. Not only is Ansel Elgort great (he uses his stage background perfectly here), but we also get 2 great villains in Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm. These might be typical heist movie style villains but Wright, Foxx, and Hamm make these characters cool and compelling. I think ultimately that is what is so great about this movie. It shows you that a movie can have cliches/tropes but as long as it is interesting you don't really care.
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
With Moonlight and now this, I love how much attention and love LGBTQ cinema has been getting. And with good reason. This is a beautiful film. It's about love, growing up, and the journey of self discovery. Without chemistry from the leads this couldn't work but Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer make it work and then some. I love for one that this shows that you don't necessarily have to show sex between characters to show lust. Luca Guadagnino is a master at work and it seems so effortless. Prepare yourself though, Michael Stuhlbarg's final monologue is one for the ages and will make you cry.
The Florida Project (2017)
Tangerine was a surprise that seemed to come out of nowhere and now with this Sean Baker looks to continue to make magical movies. These might not be fantasy films but they have the look and feel of ones. I just loved everything about this. The child actors are all fun and Willem Dafoe is captivating as always. I particularly enjoyed how this film captures the joys of being a kid and exploring your environment trying to understand the world.
Lady Bird (2017)
A really good crowd pleaser shows you the power of cinema. Everything comes together from the direction, to the script, to the acting, and to the score that you barely notice how perfect it is. I wish Greta Gerwig was more popular because she consistently is putting out great work. Her script and direction are at a level that most seasoned directors wish they could do. Saoirse Ronan gave one of my favorite performances of the year along with Laurie Metcalf. I really don't know what else I can say about this beyond that this is just an awesome film that I no doubt will watch again and again.
Being that this is Pixar, I knew that this would be a fun and emotional story that everyone should enjoy. What I wasn't expecting, was just how heavy this ended up being. Grief, trauma, death, getting old, regret, betrayal, murder, greed, legacy, culture, etc. There is so much going on in this and it is interwoven into the story flawlessly. I loved all the characters and the villain in this is especially a great one (might be early to tell but I have a feeling the villain will go on to be a classic). The cast all give life to these characters and Anthony Gonzalez is endearing and fun as the lead. Like most Pixar and Disney movies it also has beautiful and imaginative worlds you would love to explore. This also has one of the best soundtracks of the year. This was just one of my favorites of the year and I have a feeling it is guaranteed to win the Oscar for animation and probably for the music as well.
The Big Sick (2017)
A very honest and hilarious movie about love, health, and life. Based on the true story of how Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon met and how she fell into a coma, it feels very real and extremely personal. There are so many scene of awkward hilarity that are balanced with some genuine emotional scenes of possibly losing a loved one or the realization of love. Kumail plays a version of himself and he gives one of my favorite male performance of the year. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are both hilarious and play the awkwardness perfectly. Romano seems to be at that stage in his career where he is getting a lot of great character actor work and he is knocking it out of the park. The rest of the cast is great. One of the best of the year and probably a film that will get better on repeat viewings.
Get Out (2017)
A lot has been said about this and has been said way better than I could have. But I'll just say that I am thrilled at the huge cultural impact this has already had. Not a lot of horror movies deal with racism, but this not only creeps you out but gets you thinking about the way the USA has oppressed black people till this day. Instead of a typical redneck family it wisely sets it against the backdrop of a suburban family that consider themselves liberal. That family is played wonderfully and will make you cringe but also creep you out. Lil Rel Howery plays an audience surrogate while still making him a real person. But this is totally Daniel Kaluuya's movie. I would really love to see him get nominated as he sometimes doesn't even need to speak to make you feel his emotions. Jordan Peele is responsible for all this and if the rest of his movies are half as good as this, then he will be a great director.
I, Tonya (2017)
These kind of crime drama thrillers with a pulpy edge are made for me. It's kind of ridiculous but so was the actual event. It's messed up but so was Tonya's life and the event. Sometimes a piece of art just hits you in the right place and this was it. Margot Robbie takes a very difficult role and pulls it off effortlessly. She has to be funny, sad, angry, lonely, determined, loud, tenacious, and victorious all in one. I can see why one review called it "the Goodfellas of biopics". Robbie would fit right in a Scorsese movie. She is someone you will scream at but you feel bad knowing what came before and what led her to that point. Alison Janney of course is great as always. A lot have called her too over the top but there are people like that especially stage parents. She takes a very unlikable character and makes her compelling. Rest of the cast is cool too with each bringing their own flair to the table. I don't see this as mean spirited or laughing at Tonya like some have seen it. It definitely is fucked up, but once you see how her life was I get why the filmmakers made the tone of it seem weird at first. This is someone who dreamed of that classic American dream and it makes sense why a lot of scenes go between comedy to drama to even horror. And as someone who knows a lot of people like this, it paints just how awful the cycle of abuse is and how people get into it. The use of multiple POVs too really helps you understand why Tonya and these people did what they did. I don't expect everyone to love this like I did. I totally see how someone would have problems with it. But this was my favorite film of the year and one I like to revisit again and again.
Dunkirk, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, War for the Planet of the Apes, IT, It Comes at Night, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Lego Batman, and A Ghost Story.
Dunkirk, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, War for the Planet of the Apes, IT, It Comes at Night, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Lego Batman, and A Ghost Story.
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