We’re a little more than halfway through the year (seriously!) and it’s been a memorable six months in Hollywood. From spectacular blockbusters to awesome indies, there has been plenty of variety. This is a great year to go to the movies, if I do say so myself.
Well, except for those idiots who wouldn’t shut up during Alien: Covenant.
Before I go see the first big movie of 2017’s latter half, Spider-Man: Homecoming, let’s take a look back at some earlier titles I recommend.
Whoa! M. Night Shyamalan made a good movie for once? You better believe it.
In Split, a young man with Dissociative Identity Disorder kidnaps three girls for reasons I will not divulge here. He has 23 distinct personalities, with a monstrous 24th one set to emerge.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: I love James McAvoy. He’s a criminally underrated actor, which makes me sad, because he has enviable versatility (and is mighty handsome to boot!) His performance in Split is unnerving as hell, and he manages to make his goofier moments, such as dressing in drag and dancing to Kanye West as a nine-year-old boy, even more unnerving. Seriously, the man can do any genre!
In addition, it’s a very nice looking movie. Great cinematography, editing, the like. Shyamalan, for all his faults, has a cool, distinctive style, and it is on full display in Split. Sure, Split is a little implausible (is there a Shyamalan movie that isn’t?) but it’s still a taut thriller anchored by two strong performances in McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy.
Oh, and if you’re a fan of one of Shyamalan’s earlier movies… there’s a nice little treat for you. Enough said. Watch it to find out!
Logan is a brutal, blood-soaked swan song for one of Marvel’s most iconic characters, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.
In the not too distant future, mutants are nearly extinct. Logan, a shell of his old self, drinks himself blind and earns a living as a chauffeur, caring for an ailing Professor X. Logan is tasked with driving a young mutant named Laura from Mexico to North Dakota for reasons. Again, I don’t want to give too much away.
Wow. This gritty film earns its R-rating with flying colors, eschewing the usual, sanitized X-Men trappings for buckets of gore, graphic deaths and four-letter words. Within three minutes of the film, Logan’s already severed a few heads. It has much more in common with Sam Peckinpah than with Bryan Singer. Naturally, don’t show this to the kids.
Hugh Jackman is, of course, excellent as Wolverine. Despite his gruff demeanor, he is still a hero with a big heart hiding underneath those pecs.
It’s an emotional farewell to Jackman’s Wolverine, especially if you grew up with the character, but it is nothing if not memorable.
Get Out is certainly something else. It came out of nowhere and managed to change the game with horror movies, becoming the first film by an African-American director (Jordan Peele) to cross $100 million at the box office.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is an unassuming black man who meets his white girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) parents. Expecting the worst, he is surprised to learn how accepting they are. Regardless, things get a little — or very — screwy.
Honestly, the movie isn’t as scary as the trailers let on. It has spooky moments for sure, but it’s more of a dark comedy-psychological thriller hybrid, with a hefty dose of twists and social commentary on race relations.
First-time director Jordan Peele also shows a genuine love for earlier films, paying tribute to films like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with his own twist. The guy clearly did his homework! After seeing it, I told my dad “I could easily see something like this coming out in the 1970s.”
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
I enjoyed the first Guardians. I saw it back in 2014 almost completely blind (the best way to see a movie if you ask me) and promptly fell in love with Star-Lord and his merry band of misfits.
The sequel has everything that made the original special (humor, soundtrack, etc.) but features an even better story. In Guardians 2, Star-Lord meets his biological father (Kurt Russell) and, naturally, things get dramatic. I won’t ruin it for anyone who hasn’t watched the movie yet, but the ending is a bona fide tear jerker (adding Cat Stevens’s “Father and Son” doesn’t make it any less emotional.)
The first movie introduced us to the Guardians, but the sequel has better character development. We get to learn more about these characters’ quirks, as well as properly meeting characters who were more ancillary in the first one, such as Gamora’s sister Nebula.
Oh, and how can you not love Baby Groot?
Just like Get Out, Wonder Woman is groundbreaking in its own way, and not just that it’s the first DC movie that didn’t make me want to punch my pillows. It’s the first big-budget film directed by a woman to cross $100 million… on its opening weekend. No small feat. It is also Patty Jenkins’s first movie since 2003’s Monster, which was made for only $8 million. Welcome back, Patty!
Gal Gadot shines as Wonder Woman, with Chris Pine as a dashing Steve Trevor. The two join forces in World War I and fight to restore peace to war-torn Europe.
Gadot and Pine’s chemistry is fireworks. The two of them have the sort of relationship you’d find in an old-school screwball comedy from the 1930s, which nearly fits the film’s time period.
Believe the hype. It’s not only the girl-power movie of the year, it’s simply a great superhero origin story. Wonder Woman is given a personality and arc instead of a reduction down to fetish fuel, which is incredibly refreshing after years of boobs and butts.
My only gripe with Wonder Woman is picayune, but I have to call it out: that framing device is super awkward and reduces an otherwise excellent action movie down to an epic daydream.
Action movies are over, everyone. Go home.
I’m a big fan of Edgar Wright. I love Scott Pilgrim and Hot Fuzz, but he really outdid himself with Baby Driver, which leans more toward a crime drama than his signature zany comedy. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s also nothing wrong with having so many different genres going on that you defy explanation.
Young getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) works for the nasty Doc (Kevin Spacey) and tries to leave his life of crime behind and run away with his lady love (Lily James.)
What an inventive little movie! The eclectic soundtrack is the lifeblood of Baby Driver, as nearly the entire movie is edited in time with the music, and its car chase and fight scenes are incredibly well-choreographed. At times it felt like I was watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with cars.
Go see this one in the theater while you can to experience its magic. It’s not a Netflix/Redbox kinda movie.
If you’re curious to see the ranked list of everything I watched in 2017, it’s on Letterboxd. I will continue to edit it throughout the rest of 2017 (and well into 2018, I reckon.)