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MaddWolf
Movie Reviews, DVD Picks, Shenanigans

Best of 2017 So Far!

Best of 2017 So Far!

Land a’ goshen, the year’s half over already! How the F did that happen? Well, we’ve watched 161 films so far this year. Whew! Which have been the best? The new episodes of both Planet of the Apes and Spider-Man would’ve made the cut, but our judges said July releases didn’t count, so….let’s have a look at what did.

1. Get Out

You want to know the fears and anxieties at work in any modern population? Just look at their horror films.

You probably knew that. The stumper then, is what took so long for a film to manifest the fears of racial inequality as smartly as does Jordan Peele’s Get Out – an audacious first feature that never stops entertaining as it consistently pays off the bets it is unafraid to make.

2. The Survivalist

 Lean, mean futuristic science fiction that feels unsettlingly like reality, The Survivalist ranks among the best dystopian films in recent memory. And as writer/director Stephen Fingleton creates an utterly plausible and devastatingly grim future, the film marks a first time filmmaker with an awful lot to say.

3. It Comes at Night

Deep in the woods, Paul (Joel Edgerton, solid as always), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) have established a cautious existence in the face of a worldwide plague. They have boarded their windows, secured their doors, and enacted a very strict set of rules for survival.

At the top of that list: do not go out at night.

But what are the dangers, and how much of the soul might one offer up to placate fear itself?

In asking those unsettling questions, It Comes at Night becomes a truly chilling exploration of human frailty.

4. The Beguiled

Snugly hidden near the fighting in Confederate territory, a girls’ school takes in a wounded Union soldier. Delicately shifting allegiances, power struggles, competition, longing, fear, and danger waft between the columns of Miss Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies.

Sofia Coppola develops a languid and ornate atmosphere, punctuated where necessary to create a sense of dread and urgency. Her cast is uniformly excellent, their commitment to character leading to a finale that’s as devastating as it is inevitable.

5. Logan

Bloody and bleak, tossing F-bombs and the franchise’s first flash of nudity, Logan is not like the other X-Men.

Logan relies on themes of redemption – a superhero’s favorite. Director James Mangold pulls ideas from Children of Men and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, but his film reminds me more of The Girl with All the Gifts. (If you haven’t seen it, you should.)

The point? The children are our future and Logan’s real battle has always been with himself. Almost literally, in this case.

6. Baby Driver

Start to finish, the soundtrack-driven heist flick Baby Driver has a bright, infectious charm – and you can dance to it.

The beats offer more than a gimmick to ensure the flick dances along – the tunes getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) has buzzing through his ear buds give rhythm to his impressive high speed antics.

The game cast never drops a beat, playing characters with the right mix of goofiness and malice to be as fun or as terrifying as they need to be. For all its danceability, Wright’s film offers plenty of tension, too.

7. Hounds of Love

 Driven by a fiercely invested and touchingly deranged performance from Emma Booth, Hounds of Love makes a subtle shift from horrific torture tale to psychological character study. In 108 grueling minutes, writer/director Ben Young’s feature debut marks him as a filmmaker with confident vision and exciting potential.

No doubt, events get brutal, but never without reminders that Young is a craftsman. Subtle additions, such as airplanes flying freely overhead to contrast with the theme of captivity, give Hounds of Love a steady dose of smarts, even as it’s shaking your core.

8. Raw

 A vegetarian from a meat-free family, Justine (Garance Marillier, impressive) objects to her new university’s freshman hazing ritual of eating a piece of raw meat. But once she submits to peer pressure and tastes that taboo, her appetite is awakened and it will take more and more dangerous, self-destructive acts to indulge her blood lust.

Writer/director Julia Ducournau’s has her cagey way with the same themes that populate any coming-of-age story – pressure to conform, peer pressure generally, societal order and sexual hysteria. Here all take on a sly, macabre humor that’s both refreshing and unsettling.

9. Norman

 Writer/director Joseph Cedar skillfully creates an utterly fascinating character in Norman (Richard Gere), who maneuvers through an equally intriguing web of politics, friendship and desperation. And Gere, as good as he’s ever been, makes it feel authentic.

It’s a performance that should not be forgotten come award season, and it anchors a smart, detailed film as compelling as any political thriller, yet as familiar as your last little white lie.

10. The Blackcoat’s Daughter

 Winter break approaches at a Catholic New England boarding school. Snow piles up outside, the buildings empty, yet Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton) remain. One has tricked her parents for an extra day with her townie boyfriend. One remains under more mysterious circumstances.

Blackcoat’s Daughter behaves almost the way a picture book does. In a good picture book, the words tell only half the story. The illustrations don’t simply mirror the text, they tell their own story as well. If there is one particular and specific talent this film exposes in its director, it is his ability with a visual storyline.

Pay attention when you watch this one. There are loads of sinister little clues to find.

11. Split

 A transfixing James McAvoy is Kevin, a deeply troubled man harboring 23 distinct personalities and some increasingly chilling behavior. When he kidnaps the teenaged Casey (The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy) and her two friends (Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Suva), the girls are faced with constantly changing identities as they desperately seek an escape from their disorienting confines.

The split personality trope has been used to eye-rolling effect in enough films to be the perfect device for writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s clever rope-a-dope. By often splitting the frame with intentional set designs and camera angles, or by letting full face close-ups linger one extra beat, he reinforces the psychological creepiness without any excess bloodshed that would have soiled a PG-13 rating.

12. Free Fire

 Imagine if the entire 93 minutes of Reservoir Dogs took place in that last act shootout among the pack.

The noteworthy fact about Free Fire is not that it has a ballsy first act, but that the entire film is a third act. With scarcely a word of context, we’re rolled into an empty warehouse just in time for a shootout to begin, and there we will stay until the film concludes.

There is a barely controlled, very funny, incredibly bloody chaos afoot here, and it is a wild and entertaining sight to behold.

13. Colossal

 Colossal could also describe the height of writer/director Nacho Vigalondo’s latest concept, but despite some shaky interludes, it’s one worth the investment. Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis make a compelling pair, and as secrets of the film monster’s history are revealed, Vigalondo lands some solid satirical blows about self-absorption and personal demons.

Perhaps best of all is how Colossal works out of the conceptual corner it backs into. Much like the Koreans who keep coming downtown no matter how often the monster appears, Vigalondo is committed to the end, delivering a strange but satisfying in-the-moment fable.

14. The Lovers

 Credit writer/director Azazel Jacobs for turning the romantic dramedy inside out, weaving sly writing and touching performances into a thoroughly charming take on the resilience of love and the frustrating struggle to pin it down.

The Lovers is sneaky in its casual nature. Through subtle storytelling and stellar performances, it finds meaning in places rarely explored this effectively, and a gentle confidence that frayed emotions can still bond.

15. Guardians of the Galaxy 2

 Is that second mixtape ever quite as awesome as the first? Rarely, and that’s the Catch-22 of the original film’s surprising blast of space zaniness. While we never saw that one coming, this new one arrives with weighty expectations.

No, Volume 2 can’t match the ruffian charm of the first, and there are some stretches of not-much-happening-here. But James Gunn’s sequel shares a lot of heart, swashbuckling visuals and more than a few solid belly laughs.

Yes, we did like these, too:
Beauty and the Beast
Wonder Woman
The Lego Batman Movie

 

 

Written by maddwolf

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