I’m obviously behind on major reviews, but I wanted to do a sort of lightning round mini review round-up (still catching up with things as always at the beginning of the year), so here’s what I think of what I did manage to view in 2017. This is for the first half of the year, I’ll be back soon enough with Part 2:
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE * * * 1/2
A hilariously affectionate send-up of all things Batman that understands the character in ways the DCEU can’t even comprehend. Funny, sweet, and one of my favorite comedies of last year.
GET OUT * * * 1/2
Don’t know what I can say about this one that hasn’t already been said- part satire, part horror movie, Jordan Peele’s take on race relations in America remains completely unpredictable from beginning to end, never letting you see what wild direction it’s going in next. Undoubtedly one of the best and most original movies of the year.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND * *
A waste of time, bad CGI, worse acting, and completely forgettable. I had to see it written on my list just to remember that I actually watched this last year.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST *
One of the most painfully excruciating experiences of 2017, this bastardization of the Disney animated musical is at best grotesquely bizarre, at worst completely inexplicable. A film that has no justification for its existence and forces you into a garish live action cosplay retelling of a cartoon classic that makes all the songs and music worse. Horrifying.
WONDER WOMAN * * *
A solid, old-fashioned superhero origin story that became a cultural phenomenon on the strength of director Patty Jenkins’ old pro style helming of the story. A second viewing made me appreciate this a tad more than I did originally- the pace is brisk, the actors charming and the humor good-natured yet not snarky in the occasionally oppressive Marvel style. Its sincerity and earnestness allow it to overcome the usual cliches and irritating studio dictated action climax, if only just by a hair. And it goes without saying it’s miles better than anything else in the DC Universe, so they’d be wise to emulate it.
THE BEGUILED * * *
A genuinely good remake of a Don Sielgel/Clint Eastwood starring film from the 1970’s, with Sofia Coppola directing a solid cast with assured performances from Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Colin Farrell. Both this and the 70’s version would make an interesting double feature night.
THE BIG SICK * * 1/2
A romantic comedy of sorts that tells the story of how writer/star Kumail Nanjiani met his now wife Emily, (who co-wrote the film with him and is played by Zoe Kazan in the movie). I wished I had liked this more than I did, but I just didn’t find the focus on Emily and her parents as interesting or entertaining as the film did. I kept wishing to know more about Kumail’s own Pakistani family, who are kind of given the brush-off in favor of less interesting people, even if the film has its charming moments.
BABY DRIVER * * 1/2
Another half success for me. A quasi-musical that starts strong, gets shaky and eventually veers off the rails. Doesn’t help that star Ansel Elgort is one of these anti-charisma leads who can’t carry a movie, especially one that’s embracing style over substance. Still, it has a couple of exciting musical sequences from innovative director Edgar Wright.
OKJA * * 1/2
And again, another uneven attempt from a worthy filmmaker, Bong Joon-ho. A little girl raises a genetically engineered pig creature and must save it from the clutches of evil corporate goons. The wildly veering tone is no surprise from the director of Snowpiercer and The Host, but this movie doesn’t hang together quite as well as those former efforts and may leave you a bit baffled, in spite of some exciting action scenes.
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING * * *
To my enormous surprise, a delightfully appealing Tom Holland becomes by far the best Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his movie has more in common with a John Hughes-esque high school comedy than the usual Marvel action film. I enjoyed all the kids in this and look forward to more teen hijinks and smaller scale neighborhood crime fighting as opposed to boring world destroying visual effects.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES * * *
A sober conclusion to the Apes trilogy, with astonishing visuals and serious themes as the end of humanity draws near. I don’t know if the franchise can go on without Andy Serkis’s Caesar, who really carries the whole thing, but I’d definitely look forward to seeing the apes evolve even more and start wearing clothes, speaking English and becoming politicians, as in the original 60’s movie. Here’s hoping it continues.
LADY MACBETH * * * 1/2
Director William Oldroyd fashions a cold, gripping Victorian chamber drama with an electric performance from newcomer Florence Pugh as a miserable young wife who engages in a torrid affair with the new stable boy (Cosmo Jarvis). Dark, strange and completely unlike your average period drama, this one burrows into your soul.