My 5 Favorite Movies of 2017 So Far
This is a look at movies that have seen release and will contain SPOILERS.
The summer is wrapping up and we are heading into a traditional lull in the movie release lineup. It’s times like these that I like to take a minute and assess what really hit me so far in the year. I see only one other movie for the rest of the year making it into the top five (hint: it rhymes with The Vast Shedi), but it’ll be fun to see if anything else can make it. Without further delay…
The much ballyhooed swan song to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine turned out to be worth the wait. Going into this, I had serious reservations about letting go of his portrayal of the character. After seeing it I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye, not only to him, but also to Patrick Stewart’s Professor Charles Xavier. This is a truly beautiful story of a character that learned how to live for others and has long since lost that desire. He’s emotionally beaten down, his healing factor is failing, the mechanical parts of his claws don’t work like they should and he is stuck taking care of one of the most powerful mutants known to man, who is now prone to potentially disastrous seizures. He comes across a young mutant named Laura (aka X-23) whose mission to make it to the Canadian border becomes Logan’s last chance to ensure the future of mutantkind, not to mention to reconnect to the world after spending so much time hiding from it. He regains his status as a hero by sacrificing himself to bring hope to a new generation of Gifted Youngsters. If Jackman isn’t at least nominated for a major acting award for this movie, we can just write the entire industry awards system off.
Honestly, given the extremely hit-or-miss nature of Fox’s X-Men Universe, it may have been a great idea to just let this be the cap on the whole thing and let the rights revert to Marvel, but they insist on going on to screw up the Phoenix Saga again. Yay. At least we have Deadpool 2 to look forward to.
4. Get Out
Out of nowhere comes Jordan Peele’s feature directing debut, and it’s a horror movie. An amazing horror movie with astounding performances and a brilliant commentary on modern race relations. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) are a relatively new couple heading off to spend the weekend with Rose’s upper-class, WASP-y suburban family. Right off the bat her father, Dean (Bradley Whitford), comes at Chris with a cringe-worthy barrage of awkward interactions; her mother, Missy (Catherine Keener), seems suspicious of him; and her brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), is trying to exert the typical, laughably ineffective sibling overprotectiveness. Little by little the layers are peeled back and Chris discovers a sinister conspiracy that he must escape from before he becomes the next victim.
The horror genre is great fun when it’s a visceral rollercoaster ride, but it’s always the more intellectual stories that keep the genre alive between lulls. Sometimes they look at the genre itself, like Scream or Cabin in the Woods, but sometimes it takes a page out of modern life and holds up harsh realities that we may not want to see. Get Out ponders subjects like how our cross-cultural interactions are informed by institutionalized racism and stereotypes, how allies can so often miss the point, and the underlying fears of the victims of cultural appropriation. Beyond all of the brilliant subtext (and outright text), it’s just an unsettling, disturbing film from the guy responsible for that Gremlins 2 Pitch Meeting sketch you saw on YouTube.
3. T2: Trainspotting
Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) chose Life, but Life didn’t choose him. 20 years after he took their ill-gotten gains and left Scotland, and heroin, behind, Renton returns to face his friends Spud (Ewen Bremner) and Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) after his life in Amsterdam collapses. He’s less excited to encounter Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who fell in with an organized crime family and is sitting in prison, just waiting for a chance to get revenge on Renton. Among all of this is a scheme to turn the second story of Simon’s bar into a brothel using the proceeds from various crimes and a fraudulent EU business loan until everything collides into a pleasant cacophony of disaster.
Trainspotting is one of those films that comes along only every so often that transcends cultural boundaries and touches a nerve with a generation. Director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge waited until the time was just right to get the band back together, largely eschewing the events of author Irvine Welsh’s sequel novel, Porno. This is one of the best XX Years Later sequels out there, opting to follow the characters through their 40-something exploits rather than relegating them to the background in an effort to bring in a new generation with new characters. T2: Trainspotting feels like a comfortable old coat that you just discovered a fresh $100 bill in: as familiar as it is, it’s still yielding surprises. While not quite the same level of classic as the original film, it still deserves to stand proud next to it.
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
When a franchise has gone off the rails so harshly as the Spider-Man series, it stands little chance of coming back. Director John Watts, with some healthy help from producer and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, managed to do just that. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is fresh off his German adventure with Team Stark (as seen in Captain America: Civil War) and he’s buzzing with excitement. Unfortunately, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has no plans on putting Spider-Man on the Avengers’ active roster and Peter is stuck trying to prove himself to Stark while balancing his life at school, the debate team, helping his recently widowed Aunt May (Marissa Tomei) out at home, and dealing with a new villain, the Vulture (Michael Keaton).
Tom Holland is, hands down, the best Spider-Man not written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko. Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best Spider-Man moving-picture-anything made yet. And I’m a massive Sam Raimi fan. Marvel Studios pulled off a small coup getting the rights back, even if it’s only temporary. The Marvel Cinematic Universe feels a lot more whole, now. It doesn’t hurt that Holland and Keaton give outstanding performances, along with supporting performances from Marissa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, Hannibal Buress, and Martin Starr. If there was one weakness to the film, it would be two: Laura Harrier as Liz and Zendaya as Michelle. They were both mostly flat in their performances, but the slack is admirably picked up by the others in the cast. Spider-Man: Homecoming was pitched to the public as a superhero movie by way of John Hughes. The filmmakers involved succeeded immensely, as this would feel perfectly at home in a double feature with The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
1. Wonder Woman
Diana (Gal Gadot), daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nelson) and princess of Themyscira, rescues Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) from his plane that crashed in the ocean surrounding the hidden island. After hearing his tale of a deadly and destructive war raging in the world of man, Diana resolves to escort Trevor back to his home and fight at his side to ensure victory on the side of good. It’s amazing that this story is so familiar, but has only been portrayed in live action once. We’ve had multiple live action retellings of the origins of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and countless other heroes, but Wonder Woman has only ever been represented by the classic Lynda Carter TV series. This movie came at just the right time, not just for the superhero genre, but for the Universe that so desperately needed it.
The DC Extended Universe was off to a rough start. Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel didn’t exactly light the world on fire, with its dour take on Superman (Henry Cavill) leaving most audiences cold. Next up was Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Originally written as a standalone Man of Steel sequel, it was decided that what was needed was a large plot featuring Batman (Ben Affleck), a smaller plot involving Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), and a setup for a Justice League team-up. The result was a muddled mess of a film that left motivations unclear and plot threads dangling until the vastly superior Extended Edition was released at the end of that summer. Suicide Squad earned accolades for Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Will Smith’s Deadshot, but otherwise landed with a thud resulting from a villain with unclear motives and a confused tone that was the result of the studio dictating unusually massive reshoots after it witnessed the phenomenal success of the offbeat Guardians of the Galaxy, and then taking the post production away from director David Ayer and handing editing duties off to the company that cut the trailer. Despite Justice League being mostly in the can when it premiered, Wonder Woman was likely the last hope for the DCEU. It was a risk that paid off, as the movie, directed by Patty Jenkins, has single-handedly saved the DCEU and generated a franchise-worth of goodwill. It did that with a heartfelt and Christopher Reeve-level charming performance by Gal Gadot and a message that is eerily timely and prescient: that love will conquer hate, no matter where that hate springs from. For anyone that truly worships at the altar of the superhero, or the little girl (or grown woman) that has waited so long to see herself represented as the lead in a major superhero film, it’s impossible to not fall head over heels in love with this movie. It has taken its place alongside Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight as one of the best superhero films ever made.