Superhero reboots and sequels. World War II films. Epic action. Laugh out loud comedies with a heart. 2017 has produced several blends of entertainment, but what has stood out so far? As we pass the halfway mark of the year, let's take a look back at the best and worst this movie season has had to offer.
The Big Sick
Major props go out to Kumail Nanjiani and producer Judd Apatow for making a truly laugh out loud comedy that will also make you feel something. Nanjiani may be known to movie audiences for the HBO series Silicon Valley up until this summer, but this film-based on how he fell in love with his real life wife-will change their perception. Not many movies can pivot from a 9/11 joke to a serious conversation about love. The Big Sick makes you shed tears of laughter, sadness, and joy. That's incredibly hard to do. Bravo.
Land of Mine
Forget this movie? The 2017 Foreign Language film Oscar nominee hits you right in the stomach early, slowly searing the tale of a Danish sergeant watching over German kids defusing land mines after World War II. Imagine Kathryn Bigelow's Hurt Locker with foreign actors and more of a guerilla style of filmmaking with half the budget, and you have this gem. It brings to the forefront the simple question of retribution: if a country destroys yours, do you take it out on the other country's children? Roller Moller gives a breakout performance.
John Wick: Chapter 2
It's a rare sight to see a sequel outdo the original in a film series (think Terminator 2 or The Dark Knight), but the avenging hitman saga pulled off the feat by spreading the gun fights into foreign waters, adding delicious supporting players, and letting Keanu Reeves continue to redefine what the responsibility of an action star should entail. Outrageous stunts in Italy or a crazy continuous chase through New York, Chapter 2 looked deeper into Wick's past while setting up his future. I was ready for Chapter 3 as soon as the credits rolled.
Simplicity can be a filmmaker's best friend, and a never better seasoned treat like Sam Elliott doesn't hurt either. Writer/Director Brett Haley didn't need to go into complex waters in producing the story of Lee Hayden, an aging actor without a lease on his life looking for one last big moment. Elliott, at the age of 72, makes you feel every single emotion involved in Lee's trek, and The Hero reminds aspiring filmmakers that "low and slow" can be a good idea with the right star.
Not since The Dark Knight has a comic book film landed such a powerful blow on a moviegoer's conscience while producing some of the best action in years. With their second try, director James Mangold and star Hugh Jackman finally delivered the solo Wolverine story Marvel fans had been dying to see since Jackman first placed the role in 2000. By making Logan older, weaker, and decrepit, Mangold gave the actor a real opportunity to dig into the role with both feet. Try and act like the final scene doesn't move you to tears. Comic book film fan or not, this film made a dent.
Honorable Mention: Chuck, Get Out, How To Be A Latin Lover, Split
King Arthur: Legend of The Sword
I am not sure if Guy Ritchie was drunk when he edited this film or just felt confident after two highly successful Sherlock Holmes sequels, but this was a painful cinematic sludge job. Overbearing with its slow motion action, awfully slow, and lacking any real juicy thrill, Charlie Hunnam was left to throw the film on his back, and he crumbled under the pressure. There's a reason this film bombed terribly at the box office; it's a terrible film.
Ghost in the Shell
Scarlett Johansson deserved better, but she could have injected a little more feeling into her portrayal of Major. That's right, the main character is named Major, and she feels nothing, which is exactly what audiences felt while watching this futuristic science fiction tale. It could have been a good time if it didn't take itself so seriously.
Kong: Skull Island
Why did we need this film? Peter Jackson made this movie years ago, and it was a lot better. This needless reboot is a laughfest and not in the intentional way. Samuel L. Jackson's military heavy pledging revenge on the big beast is overwrought by the third scene. John Goodman's phoned in performance doesn't help, and Brie Larson pulls the common post Oscar win slip-up. Also, what was Tom Hiddleston doing the entire movie? This gives reboots a bad name.
Transformers: The Last Knight
Again, why more sequels? The Age of Extinction was three hours too long, and Mark Wahlberg looks even less interested in this chapter, the fifth in Michael Bay's series of lies called, "this is my last one". Optimus Prime is barely in the film, and it has seven subplots too many. At nearly 160 minutes long, one has to wonder if Bay has a firm handle on the Razzie Award for Worst Editing.
Tom Cruise couldn't even put a spit-shine on this cinematic turd. If I was Brendan Fraser, I'm wondering why they went back to this well so many years after the last sequel, and why they made such an uneven film. The lead villain-bearer of the name of the movie-isn't even the main player in the movie. No, it's Cruise's pale imitation of Indiana Jones, and it's just a waste of time. The only time this film lit up was when Russell Crowe's Dr. Henry Jekyll and Eddie Hyde made appearances. Unfortunately, that was about ten whole minutes. The rest is a draining experience that isn't fun, smart, or worth your time. Consider yourself saved.
BEST SUPERHERO MOVIE
Wonder Woman. Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot didn't just set out to make a decent entry in the DCU; they aim to stay awhile with this highly entertaining origin tale of Diana Prince. Gadot knocks it out of the park, and Chris Pine is a dynamic action hero who doesn't need the center stage to produce quality.
MOST IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE
Andy Serkis in War on The Planet of the Apes. The movies arrives Thursday, but I'll just say what Serkis can do as the heroic Caesar transcends the long range goals of motion capture technology. Give the man an award.
BEST TIME AT THE MOVIES
Baby Driver. A killer Jon Hamm. Groovy soundtrack. Confident direction. Wisecrack dialogue with an ego. Unbelievable car stunts. This movie has all the treats and doesn't ask you to think too much.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
Lego Batman. What Will Arnett can do as the voice of Batman/Bruce Wayne is nothing short of remarkable. The sense of humor and ability to mock other Batman live action movies is key, because it is done tastefully. Lego Movie was pretty good, but Lego Batman is great.
BEST SAVIOR AT THE MOVIES
Tom Holland. You gave film fans the combination of Spider Man/Peter Parker that we deserved, and didn't think was possible after two actors and five tries. You make more Spider Man films a fine idea and not a dreaded experience. Thanks, kid. You're 21 years old, so enjoy a pint.
MOST IMPRESSIVE FEAT
Fast 8. Love or hate the series, but respect the durability and reach across the globe that it has. Adding action warriors like Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham and mixing them with Oscar winners like Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren has kept the engine on this franchise beast roaring for 17 years and eight films. Show some respect to the master behind the mayhem, star/producer Vin Diesel.
That's all for now. There are so many more gems to come, like Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, Doug Liman's American Made, Denis Villanueve's Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Alexander Payne's Downsizing.
I feel like 2017 is just getting warmed up with its stellar slate of July films, and upcoming treats that lie ahead. I've seen 41 new films this year and still haven't seen a movie that completely BLOWS me away. The Big Sick has made the biggest dent, so we shall see what comes next.
Thanks for reading and I'll see you at the movies.
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