Top 15 Best Movies of 2017

Finally! Onto the good stuff!

As I mentioned before, I decided to hold off on my list of the best movies of the year for a bit to catch up on some movies that I have yet to see. I can’t recall a more memorable year for film than 2017! From the breathtaking to the original to the haunting to the downright powerful, these are only several words on how I can describe these fifteen great movies on my list. Let’s get started!

Honorable Mentions: Coco, Darkest Hour, The Florida Project, Get Out, A Ghost Story, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, I Am Heath Ledger, John Wick: Chapter Two, Logan, Logan Lucky, The Lost City of Z, Maudie, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Only the Brave, The Post, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stronger, Wind River, Wonder Woman

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(Source: Vulture)

15. It – Starting off the list is the long-waited second adaptation of Stephen King’s 1,000+ page epic. Andy Muschietti’s first of two movies follows seven kids teaming up to take down Pennywise the Clown (a wicked terrifying Bill Skarsgard). This movie brought together some of the most talented child actors working today, including St. Vincent’s Jaeden Lieberher and Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard (laugh-out-loud hilarious as the trashmouth Richie). While a lot of people may not think this version of It is not entirely scary, I found it to be a little more than just scary. This is a funny, intense, graphic, and downright devastating coming-of-age story about the loss of innocence. I have a bad feeling the sequel is going to suck, but I’m glad I went to see this one!

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(Source: Billboard)

14. Baby DriverFresh from finishing his Cornetto trilogy with 2013’s The World’s End, Edgar Wright’s next feature is more personal. Not only did he direct Baby Driver, he–and only he–also wrote the screenplay. This throws every Fast and Furious movie out of the water! With Ansel Elgort leading a talented cast, this is fast-paced, slick, and darkly-funny action film featuring some of the best action and the best soundtrack of the year. It also contains perhaps the coolest warehouse shootout I’ve ever seen!

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(Source: Esquire)

13. Thor: Ragnarok After the disappointment of Thor: The Dark World, the MCU has improved quite a bit. I wish Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) would direct every film in the MCU. His direction and sense of humor has put into great use here. It’s a great opportunity for him to film in his New Zealand homeland, like Peter Jackson did with his Lord of the Rings franchise. While it may have emotional moments here and there, Thor: Ragnarok is a blast from start to finish. No one can play Thor better than Chris Hemsworth. Thumbs up for its amazing use of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”!

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(Source: Coming-Soon.net)

12. DetroitIt’s a shame this movie didn’t get the attention it deserved. Kathryn Bigelow’s portrayal of the 1967 Detroit riots is as heavy-handed as it is powerful. It focuses on the incident at the Algiers Motel where three black men were killed and nine others injured. With Mark Boal’s brilliant screenplay, fantastic performances by Anthony Mackie, a suave John Boyega, and a sinister Will Poulter, and effective use of the handheld camerawork, Detroit keeps you on the edge of your seat.

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(Source: The Playlist)

11. The Big SickIf you’re sick and tired of those cliched rom-coms (like myself), The Big Sick will help you forget about them. This movie is based on a true story about Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani living in Chicago, who falls for a woman who goes into a coma. It’s funny as it is heart-wrenching. The 9/11 scene is nothing short of marvelous writing! Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan make a cute couple. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are also great as the girl’s parents. I would be bummed if Nanjiani doesn’t earn an Oscar nomination as a fictional version of himself who wants to marry for love, not because of his culture. Easily one of the best comedies I’ve ever seen.

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(Source: IndieWire)

10. Mudbound – After a few mishaps, this is the first Netflix original movie I actually loved! The movie follows two families–one black, one white–as they face tensions in the South during World War II. This is a gritty yet moving picture with Carey Mulligan leading an excellent ensemble and tackles the topics of racism and PTSD. Definitely a Netflix movie I’ll watch for the rest of my life.

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(Source: The Atlantic)

9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Who knew a British filmmaker like Martin McDonagh would direct a future all-American classic? Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has the perfect blend of dark comedy and devastating drama. I hope Frances McDormand wins the Oscar for her performance as a mother fighting for justice and vengeance. Woody Harrelson and the underrated Sam Rockwell give some of the best performance of their careers as the two authorities who get in her way. Great stuff!

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(Source: Vice)

8. KediThis is the best (and only) documentary I’ve seen from last year. It follows the lives of seven out of thousands of stray cats roaming the streets of Istanbul, Turkey’s capital city. I love how positive the residents are about these wonderful creatures. Ranging from a bakery worker using his tips for vet visits to a middle-aged man explaining how cats helped him recover from a nervous breakdown. Istanbul native Ceyda Torun creates a gorgeous ode to her “cat metropolis” and reminding how they are one-of-a-kind animals. In the beginning of the movie, one of the residents says, “Without cats, Istanbul would lose part of its soul.” Cat lovers and animals will certainly love this documentary!

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(Source: IndieWire)

7. Blade Runner 204935 years after the original Blade Runner, Ridley Scott returns to his sci-fi world as a producer. Denis Villeneuve takes his place as director to expand the gritty future. Ryan Gosling is no stranger for playing dark, violent characters with subtle emotions. Along with a massive cast, he does a wonderful job as Officer K, the new cop in the LAPD assigning to take down old replicants. Combining Roger Deakins’ impressive cinematography and thought-provoking ideas, Blade Runner 2049 is slightly better than the original. I’m glad Harrison Ford returned as Officer Deckard.

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(Source: IMDb)

6. Phantom ThreadLegendary actor Daniel Day-Lewis teams up with Paul Thomas Anderson for the first time since There Will Be Blood. Phantom Thread is perhaps Day-Lewis’ last film before his retirement. I hope he decides to return to acting one day. From My Left Foot to Last of the Mohicans to Lincoln, he has had an impressive filmography. In this movie, he delivers one of the best performances of his career as Reynolds Woodcock, London’s most successful fashion designer during the 1950s (some of the dresses he makes takes your breath away!). One day, he falls in love with a woman named Alma (the lovely Vicky Krieps). Things get real intense. Through PTA’s marvelous direction, writing, and cinematography and Jonny Greenwood’s breathtaking score, there is so much beauty and suspense that Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of! Surprisingly enough, Phantom Thread is also pretty damn funny!

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(Source: Hollywood Reporter)

5. War for the Planet of the ApesWhen Matt Reeves took over to direct Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it exceeded everybody’s expectations. While Rise was a great set-up, Dawn took the beloved sci-fi franchise to new heights! With War, he finished one of the best trilogies of all-time! Through the motion capture, Andy Serkis’ Caesar makes a kick-ass hero! Newcomers including Woody Harrelson’s Colonel (paying tribute to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now) and Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape provide enough humanity this gritty, action-packed, emotional conclusion. I’m hoping for more Planet of the Apes movies in the future.

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(Source: Washington Post)

4. DunkirkAfter the sap-fest known as Interstellar, Christopher Nolan goes back to an important time in history. The Dunkirk evacuation (a.k.a. Operation Dynamo) of 1940; where 300,000 troops from Britain, Canada, Belgium, and France were rescued off the coast of Northern France surrounded by the Germans. Dunkirk might not be an easy movie to follow. It follows three different storylines in non-linear fashion–one on the beach; taken place over the course of one week, the other out to sea; taken place over the course of one day, the last in the air; taken over the course of one hour. Trust me, I had to see it twice in theaters in order to place the pieces of the film’s timeline together.

Nevertheless, this movie pinned me to my seat with its high tension, historical accuracy and authenticity, refreshing use of practical effects (rare in summer blockbusters nowadays), Hans Zimmer’s eerie score, and powerful performances by Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, and Harry Styles (who never breaks into song and dance). Peter Travers went as far to call Dunkirk “the greatest war movie ever made”. It sure is one hell of an experience!

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(Source: The Atlantic)

3. Lady Bird – This is perhaps the best directorial debut in recent memory. Known for collaborating with director Noah Baumbach in Frances Ha and Mistress America, the delightfully quirky Greta Gerwig makes a film based on her early life in Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan gives yet another miraculous performance as Lady Bird, a senior at an all-girl Catholic high school. And we follow her throughout her school year set a year after 9/11, joining in the school plays, having two boyfriends, and attempting to get accepted at a college in New York. Most importantly,  she wants to be loved by her hard-working mother (a spectacular Laurie Metcalf). The mother-daughter dynamic is one of the reasons why this coming-of-age story as hilarious as it is poignant. Gerwig has literally hit home with Lady Bird. Finger crossed that she directs more great movies in the near future.

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(Source: Vox)

2. The Shape of Water – It’s hard not to appreciate the vision of Guillermo del Toro’s films. From Hellboy, Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak to his masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. His new film, The Shape of Water, is a fairy tale, love story, Cold War thriller, and a tribute to cinema all wrapped into one. Sally Hawkins is a revelation as Eliza, the mute janitor who develops an attraction with Doug Jones’ Amphibian Man (a nod to the Creature from the Black Lagoon). This bizarre fantasy has enough of everything to carry through–humor, violence, beauty, and suspense. With an Oscar-worthy score by the great Alexandre Desplat and a gifted supporting cast including Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and a deliciously evil Michael Shannon, The Shape of Water is most certainly likely this will take home the big prize at this year’s Oscars. However, this is not my favorite movie from 2017.

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(Source: Variety)

1. Call Me by Your Name – I have been waiting for Call Me by Your Name ever since it premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. While I didn’t have the time to read André Aciman’s novel before seeing the movie, I became anxious to see what the praise was about. From its first image, I have never seen a more beautiful romance in my entire life! Through Luca Guadagnino’s spectacular direction and James Ivory’s astounding screenplay, this is less of a gay love story than a coming-of-age story. Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer are downright magical as Elio and Oliver, the two lovebirds who decide to spend the long summer together in northern Italy. While this movie can be compared to last year’s Oscar winner Moonlight, these movies are different in their own right.

As a 17-year-old, Elio–the main character–is living a happy life with his parents (Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar) in his Italian country house. He loves his books and music. However, he’s struggling to come to terms with his identity. Everything changes when the handsome Oliver visits his family for the summer as an intern. Throughout the first hour, they begin teasing and flirting with each other until they develop a friendship unlike any other. This is a summer they will never forget. Kudos to marvelous chemistry between the two, it’s hard not to smile whenever these two are together. It’s impossible not to get teary-eyed during father’s monologue near the end of the movie. Call Me by Your Name is one of these movies I’ll watch for the rest of my life!

Guadagnino said he might direct sequels to this movie; like Richard Linklater did with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. I don’t see why it won’t happen. I would love to see how Elio and Oliver evolve as they get older!

It’s hard to believe this decade is almost over! Only two more years to go until I compile a list of the top 100 best and worst movies of the decade…I guess it’s about that time to get started on that.

Anyway–I hope you enjoyed reading about my picks of the best and worst movies from this past year as I did writing about them. Please feel free to leave a comment about what your favorite movies of the year are. Here’s to another great year for film in 2018!

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2017 Summer Movie Review: Detroit

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Officer Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega) tries to find out the commotion at the Algiers Motel in Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit. (Source: IMDb)

Director Kathryn Bigelow has come a long way from collaborating with her ex-husband on Point Break. A movie that is nothing but pure ‘90s entertainment. It’s dumb, hilarious, action-packed, and cool; featuring memorable dialogue and a great cast playing memorable characters. What’s not to love?

Heading into the 21st century, she—along with screenwriter Mark Boal—made the transition to capture the brutal realism of the War on Terrorism in The Hurt Locker (which won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2009) and Zero Dark Thirty. This time, they go back to a devastating time in history. Detroit brings the 1960s culture and the racial tensions of the time to pure life.

Michigan’s largest city has become one of the most diverse in America. Known as The Great Migration (as stated in the film’s opening scene), millions of African-Americans moved from the cotton fields of the South to the Northern states in hopes of living a better life and earn extra money. After World War II, however, the white population moved to the suburbs which caused tensions to rise.

On one of the hottest days of 1967, the police force (who are mostly white) make arrests on the streets, which pisses off the black community. They start robbing stores, put buildings and cars on fire, and protest to no end. The National Guard, the Michigan PD, and the Detroit PD patrol the streets day in and day out, and address a curfew to the residents.

Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega) is a security guard who hears shots at the nearby Algiers Motel. He goes over there to see what’s going on. Three white cops, led by Philip Krauss (Will Poulter) who has faced murder charges for killing a black male from robbing a grocery store in broad daylight. He lines people up against the wall to find out who’s responsible for shooting at the police. This resulted in three black males getting killed, and nine others—including a Vietnam veteran (Anthony Mackie) and two white females, Julie (Hannah Murray) and Karen (Kaitlyn Dever, Last Man Standing)—injured.

The riots from fifty years ago are relevant to the racial tensions of today—from the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, to the shooting of Oscar Grant at San Francisco’s Fruitvale Station (depicted in 2013’s overlooked Fruitvale Station), to the riots in Baltimore in 2015; where a game between the Orioles and the Boston Red Sox went on without any fans in the stadium whatsoever. Detroit is a reminder of today’s racial discrimination.

Barry Ackroyd’s handheld camerawork resembles the films of Peter Berg and Paul Greengrass. The entire sequence at the Algiers Motel had the same impact as the lifeboat sequence in Captain Phillips; nothing but edge-of-your-seat intensity. While filmed in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the sets look as authentic as the city and the events that took place.

I cannot ask for a better cast. From Poulter’s sinister work as Officer Krauss to Boyega’s raw, convincing performance as Officer Dismukes (who seems to be a great guy to be around with, particularly in an early scene where he serves coffee to a small group of white officers), Algee Smith steals the entire movie as Larry Reed, the lead singer of the Dramatics, with a stellar voice. After his performance gets cancelled, reality begins to hit him across the face.

According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, most of the audience members who attended the world premiere at the Fox Theatre were actually a part of the riots—from police officers to ordinary residents. They were moved to tears over the film’s portrayal. It’s a shame Detroit underperformed at the box office this past weekend. This is a movie everybody needs to see; not to mention being viewed in every high school in America.

4/4

 

2017 Summer Movie Preview: August

This is it! It’s officially August, which means the summer movie season is about to come to a close. This also means this is the last time I’ll talk about what has yet to come out during the summer until next year. Unsurprisingly, this has been a pretty decent summer for movies. I might not have seen every single one of them, but there have been some fantastic ones (War for the Planet of the Apes, Dunkirk), some bad ones (The Mummy, Okja), and ones I’m glad I skipped. Without further ado, let’s talk about the movies that are coming out in the slowest month of the summer.

August 4

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Source: IMP Awards

The Dark Tower – Based on a fantasy series by the marvelous Stephen King, this movie stars two talented actors—Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. Elba’s Gunslinger must prevent McConaughey’s Man in Black from the Dark Tower, hoping to save mankind. This has been in the works for a while. J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard considered to direct the continuation of King’s series before Nikolaj Arcel (writer and director of The Royal Affair, and writer of the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) took over. This might be okay if it was much longer than 95 minutes, so—the audience can discover the world Stephen King created. I’m skeptical with this one.

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Source: IMP Awards

Detroit – Kathryn Bigelow has come a long way from directing the awesome 1990s action film Point Break. Now—she joins the likes of Paul Greengrass and Peter Berg with work on the gritty realism of the Iraq war in The Hurt Locker. She beat her ex-husband James Cameron for winning Best Picture and becoming the first woman to win Best Director. Bigelow continues her route with Zero Dark Thirty, the true story of the NAVY seals killing Osama bin Laden. With Detroit, she—along with writer Mark Boal—depict the miserable riots of the city that happened fifty years ago. From the looks of this, I see some powerful stuff. Will this be an Oscar contender? I’ll just have to wait and see.

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Source: IMP Awards

Kidnap – Halle Berry’s career has gone downhill after Oscar win for Monster’s Ball. Not to my surprise, this looks like a generic action thriller about a mother trying to save her son from getting kidnapped. I wouldn’t be surprised if this hardly makes any money at all. Moving right along.

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Source: IMP Awards

Wind River –Taylor Sheridan has crafted one of the best screenplays of last year with Hell or High Water. It features sheer intensity and characters with a razor-sharp wit. Wind River is his directorial debut; receiving positive reception at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen star as two agents investigating a murder of a Native-American girl in the most remote area in the United States—Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation. Co-starring Gil Birmingham (who also starred in Hell or High Water and—yes—as Jacob’s father from the Twilight saga), I cannot wait for some end-of-summer thrills.

August 11

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Source: IMP Awards

Annabelle: Creation – The popular Conjuring franchise opened up with an eerie scene where two girls are being interviewed about their Annabelle doll being possessed by a spirit. Following a terrible prequel/spin-off featuring the ventriloquist doll and a fantastic sequel to The Conjuring, Lights Out director David F. Sandberg brings the audience back how Annabelle actually came to be. This is the Annabelle spinoff everyone might be asking for! None of that cheap crap! Just pure atmosphere!

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Source: IMP Awards

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature – I haven’t seen the first film, and have no interest in seeing that or the sequel. Next!

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Source: IMP Awards

The Glass Castle – Brie Larson is becoming one of the best actresses working today. From winning an Oscar for the emotionally powerful Room, letting bullets fly in Free Fire, and about to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Captain Marvel, is there anything she can’t do? Star in another (seemingly) powerful indie drama, alongside Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson, based on the bestselling memoir of Jeannette Walls, growing up with three other siblings in and out of poverty.

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Source: IMP Awards

The Only Living Boy in New York – While this might have a great cast (Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale, Cynthia Nixon, and Pierce Brosnan) and a talented filmmaker (Marc Webb) attached to it, but I felt absolutely nothing watching the trailer. It might go the same route as this year’s Gifted. Pretentious and manipulative. I’m skipping this one.

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Source: IMP Awards

The Trip to Spain – Following The Trip and The Trip to Italy, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are back for yet another hilarious trek through Spain. While I haven’t seen the other two films, the trailer for this one made me laugh quite a bit. I might give these films a shot.

August 18

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Source: IMP Awards

The Hitman’s Bodyguard – How can one not love Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson? Even if they star in an action-comedy together? Being in the middle of car chases and shootouts as they defeat a dictator, played by no other than Gary Oldman? I’m hoping this will be a good laugh-out-loud, shoot-‘em-up thrill ride.

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Source: IMP Awards

Logan Lucky – Steven Soderbergh is back in the director’s chair four years after Side Effects and Behind the Candelabra. He has brought back his roots of Ocean’s Eleven in this heist movie about two brothers pulling a heist during a NASCAR race in Charlotte, North Carolina. It has a talented cast including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, and Daniel Craig. While he’s no 007, it looks like Craig is having a blast here, along with his cast-mates. Definitely looking forward to this one!

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Source: IMP Awards

Patti Cake$ – This…looks…like it would be pretty good. I’m not the biggest fan of rap music, but I do enjoy movies having to do with rap music, such as 8 Mile and Straight Outta Compton. I have vaguely heard of it when it premiered at Sundance. This seems to be another movie about chasing one’s dreams, a theme in which I have come to admire during the past year. So—I’m in for Patti Cake$.

August 25

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Source: IMP Awards

Tulip Fever – This movie been pushed back from July 15 of last year to the last week of August. I was interested in seeing it, due to the brilliant cast including Academy-Award winners Alicia Vikander and Christoph Waltz. But now—I couldn’t care less. It just looks so dull and barely any flavor.

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Source: IMP Awards

Bushwick – Another film coming straight from Sundance. The awesome Dave Bautista stars in this futuristic tale as a war veteran joining sides with a Brooklyn resident (Brittany Snow, Hairspray and Pitch Perfect) to take down militia units. Why? Because Texas to secede from the Union and claim New York City as a negotiation tool. While the concept is intriguing enough and it looks intense, but it looks standard—more or less.

Recap:

Most Anticipated: Annabelle: Creation, Detroit, The Glass Castle, Logan Lucky, Wind River

Least Anticipated: All Saints, Kidnap, The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, The Only Living Boy in New York, Tulip Fever

I hope enjoyed reading my thoughts on what has yet to come out in the month of August. Please feel free to leave a comment on what your most anticipated movies for this month are. I appreciate each and every one of you reading my thoughts on the biggest summer blockbusters as well as some independent films. I’ll definitely do this next year. Stay tuned for that, as well as other content on this blog.