2017 is about halfway over, and there have been many movies that have already made their way in and out of theaters. Some good (see below). Some not so good (Transformers: The Last Knight, most recently).
Let us ignore the bad and focus on what has made the cinema a worthwhile experience in 2017 thus far (in chronological order by release date).
The stigma on the shoulders of M. Night Shyamalan has only grown over the years. The general downward trajectory of his films has caused many detractors, and by and large those detractors make a fair point. A real Mark-Wahlberg-talking-to-plants fair point.
Then there was 2015’s The Visit, a film that was, at the very least, competently constructed. Word was that Shyamalan may be back. Enter Split: a tie-in film that Shyamalan had in the works since the inception of Unbreakable.
The film is good. It isn’t perfect or ground-breaking, but it set a good tone and rode that tone to a satisfying conclusion. And James McAvoy’s performance makes it all the more worthwhile.
With the success of The Lego Movie, it is no wonder that the sequel game is afoot in this brand-name universe. But the The Lego Batman Movie seemed at face value as a strange choice for a spin-off sequel. It doesn’t directly relate to the story of The Lego Movie and it is playing off of a niche audience. Granted, it is a niche audience that has ballooned thanks to the success of many comic book movies, but still.
The Lego Batman Movie does play directly into this niche audience. Various in-jokes dominate this fast paced, quick-witted spoof. Strip this away, though, and the film has a lot of interesting self-aware narrative beats to it as well. The story plays around with the thematic underpinnings of the Batman world: isolation, most readily.
The scripting, voice acting, and simple-yet-heartfelt story make The Lego Batman a well-deserved sequel to The Lego Movie. And that it manages to be a better Batman movie than the last movie Batman appeared in is telling.
John Wick kills people, again. It’s a popcorn movie done right.
Not for the faint of heart, Raw delivers an experience that is equal parts grotesque and beautiful. At the risk of divulging too much of the plot, Raw revolves around a vegetarian who, following a college hazing ritual, becomes something much more carnivorous.
That might not sound too crazy, but…just watch it. Or don’t. I don’t want to be blamed for you losing your lunch.
Perhaps the film on the list most readily in competition for best of the year, Jordan Peele’s social commentary thriller Get Out blew audiences and critics away upon release. With a 99% Rotten Tomatoes score and an A- Cinemascore rating, it is one of the most acclaimed movies of the year.
And rightfully so. The film takes common tropes of the horror/thriller genre and uses them to tell a completely original story with entertaining twists and turns and a poignant statement about “post-racial America.” It is a must-see for any genre fan.
To anyone saying that the superhero genre is an overdone formula (me, I am that anyone), you only need look at Logan to see that it isn’t so. Superhero films can also work on other overdone genre formulas. In this case, it is the Western, and it is a refreshing change of pace to the X-Men universe.
Logan, the Wolverine to the layman, is weathered and aged. It is Hugh Jackman’s swan song in the role, and his exit from the franchise is fairly phenomenal given you are watching an X-Men film.
So yeah it’s not Citizen Kane (or is it…). But that scene with Jason Statham and the baby…I mean, come on!
There is something about Free Fire that is worth dissecting: the film has no substance to dissect. It is a film whose plot is a half-line long whose entertainment value reaches at least the length of a sonnet, just not as eloquent.
Instead of story, the film has riveting action sequences (well, more like one extended action sequence) that are well-choreographed and excellently edited. There isn’t a whole lot here, but what is here is easily digestible and riotously fun.
The first good DC extended universe film? Yes, please.
Wonder Woman is not the bleak, dour world of the previous DCEU films. Instead, it has some color for a time before fading into a monochrome blue. It’s a start.
The film is a tad overlong, but it is an engaging origin story with some snappy dialogue and one or two good action sequences. The climax is messy, as well. And the supporting characters feel entirely unnecessary.
Again, it’s a start.
Woe is the tale of It Comes At Night, both in the film itself and the conversation surrounding it. Rave critic reviews and a fantastic run of pulse-pounding trailers set up expectations for a film that audiences did not receive. Hence the D Cinemascore rating.
But the film is fantastic. It is horrifying not because of what comes at night (well, actually, what comes at night is not a physical entity but the harrowing power of unconscious grief, but you know what I mean. I’m talking about the post-apocalyptic disease of which we only see glimpses). It is horrifying because of how the film paints the possibilities, what otherwise normal people will go to in order to protect their loved ones.
There you have it, folks. Movies: they’re okay sometimes.
As always, thanks for reading!
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)