Posts Tagged ‘2017 movies’

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I, Tonya (2017)

February 22, 2018

Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney
Director: Craig Gillespie (Fright Night, Lars and the Real Girl, The Finest Hours)

Bottom Line: Absolutely loved it. This is the story of American Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding (Robbie), her brutal upbringing by her abusive and alcoholic mother (Janney), her struggle for acceptance (despite her enormous talent) in the ice skating world because of her trashy background, her tumultuous relationship with boyfriend Jeff Gillooly (Stan), and the controversy that arose from all of these things, including the infamous Nancy Kerrigan Incident. I love the way this movie is delivered via present day interviews and flashbacks and a knowing wink that everyone involved might be twisting the truth about what actually happened. The use of multiple unreliable narrators allows the story to unfold without presenting everything as 100% factual and adds an extra layer of humor to what is easily the funniest 2017 film I’ve seen to date. I, Tonya manages to tell Harding’s story without really taking anyone’s side. Tonya Harding might be at the center of this biopic, but she’s no hero and even though the film might want you to feel pity for Harding at times, I think it clearly understands that she was an incredibly flawed human being and though she was surrounded by horrible people, she wasn’t merely a victim of circumstance – she didn’t exactly shy away from controversy. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney are brilliant in this movie, both delivering tour-de-force performances worthy of their Oscar nominations.

I, Tonya is definitely one of my favorite 2017 films. It’s hilarious and entertaining, ever-so-slightly heartbreaking, with some top notch acting from Robbie and Janney – a must see dark comedy about a troubled former celebrity that will make you laugh out loud and almost feel bad for her.

Replay Value: I would eagerly watch this again and I’m sure my wife will love it.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Nominated for three Oscars: Robbie for Best Actress, Janney for Best Supporting Actress, and Film Editing. I haven’t seen all the movies nominated for Best Costume Design or Best Makeup, but anyone that can make Margot Robbie look even slightly unattractive probably deserves some acclaim. Also, it seems like adding I, Tonya as a tenth nominee for Best Picture wouldn’t be asking too much.

Grade: 8/10 (Must See)

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Call Me By Your Name (2017)

February 1, 2018

Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar
Director: Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash)

Bottom Line: Call Me By Your Name is naturally going to draw some comparisons to 2005’s Brokeback Mountain and that might be all the information some of my followers need to decide to stay away. But 2018 is not 2005 and we live in a much more accepting (though still incredibly prejudiced) world nowadays and maybe some of you will appreciate this for what it is: a very solid coming-of-age love story set in Italy during the early 1980s… between a 17 year old boy and a 25 year old man. Yes, not everyone’s cup of tea – and the age difference borders on suspect – but I really enjoyed it. There are some cringe-worthy moments – as is the case with lots of foreign language films – but it’s funny, moving, and plenty memorable. It’s an emotional journey you are truly invested in and the Italian backdrop really engrosses you in the story. Timothee Chalamet gives the strongest 2017 performance from a lead actor that I’ve seen to date and Armie Hammer is also very good in a role I wouldn’t have really expected from him. I also really appreciated Elio’s (Chalamet) parents (Stuhlbarg and Casar). They were very progressive and supportive of what their son was up to, which would be cool enough in 2018, but is even more remarkable for a film set in the 80s.

Call Me By Your Name was a lot of fun and highly recommended. If you’re wary about a love story between two guys then it’s probably not for you, but I thought it was one of the better overall films of 2017. I think this could easily be a film I look back on in a few years and realize it’s better than I’m giving it credit for right now.

Replay Value: The more I think back on it, the more I’d like to watch it again.
Sequel Potential: Director Luca Guadagnino has already announced a sequel, which is rather surprising.
Oscar Potential: Nominated for four Oscars: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Song, and Timothee Chalamet for Best Actor.

Grade: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Molly’s Game, The Shape of Water, A Ghost Story

January 9, 2018

I’m pretty far behind on posting my thoughts on entertainment content, so I’m just going to pump it all out right now.

Molly’s Game (2017) – This is a rare occurrence where a movie is significantly better than the book it was based on thanks in large part to Aaron Sorkin’s uncanny ability to translate stories to the big screen with his ability to write snappy and entertaining dialogue-heavy scenes. There’s a line in the movie where Idris Elba’s character says something about the best part of Molly’s story taking place after her book was published; he’s not wrong. In fact, his character didn’t even exist in the book. All the court drama is fresh material and it is quite great. Jessica Chastain and Elba are wonderful in their roles. Michael Cera’s character is actually the actor Tobey Maguire and while he’s painted pretty slimy in this movie, he plays a much bigger villain role in the book. For instance, Tobey insists on using his own personal Shuffle Master for the games and charges Molly to use it. I wasn’t moved by the book at all. I thought it was an interesting story, but I didn’t feel bad for Molly Bloom. This movie made me feel something. Kudos to Aaron Sorkin’s writing and directing and a great cast.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

The Shape of Water (2017) – This movie blew me away. Guillermo del Toro directs a wonderfully beautiful film with a fun (but kind of weird) love story about not judging a book by its cover. Sally Hawkins is ridiculously good in this movie, playing a mute that works in a secret government building as a cleaning lady and falls in love with a Sea Monster/Man they are holding captive. This is a film that is firing on all cylinders: visually, musically, and technically. Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins are great in supporting roles and Michael Shannon is terrific as the story’s main villain – goodness that guy can make you hate him. The Shape of Water might not wind up being my favorite movie of 2017, but it is almost certainly the best all around 2017 film I’ve seen so far. This movie is highly artistic and a little out there, so it might not be for everyone. My friend I saw it with had the audacity to call it “alright.”

8/10 (Must See)

A Ghost Story (2017) – This was an experience. I had no clue what I was getting into and was totally floored by the direction this movie takes. Casey Affleck plays husband to Rooney Mara, but passes away after a car accident early on in the movie only to return as the stereotypical-looking ghost in a white sheet. He returns to their home and watches her grieve – including an uncomfortably long four minute scene of Rooney Mara devouring a pie – and eventually move on. There is no interaction between ghost and grieving wife and even though the spirit was able travel from the morgue to their home, it remains behind after she moves out and other people begin to move in and out, and a serious amount of time passes. It’s a weird movie. There is very little dialogue after Casey Affleck’s character dies, as most of the film is music and a ghost observing. And yet, it was incredibly entrancing, moving, and quite thought-provoking. I really wanted my wife to watch it but I’m sure she’d hate it, so I didn’t even bother suggesting it. I’m hesitant to recommend this movie, but I loved it and I wanted to watch it again right after I saw it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Raw (2017) – Technically, this movie was viewed at film festivals in 2016, but I don’t think it was released in theaters until 2017. This is a pretty bizarre French-language film about a young vegetarian girl forced to eat meat while getting hazed during orientation at a veterinarian school and develops an insatiable desire for meat and discovers that humans are quite tasty! There’s lots of weird stuff in this movie – it’s overly gross and sexual at times – and I would not recommend it to more conservative audiences. I thought it was pretty fun though and fans of horror movies from other countries shouldn’t be put off by it’s boundary pushing.

6/10 (Recommended)

Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010) – Happened to watch this on Netflix and thought it was a pretty fun, but not great horror movie with a twist. Tucker and Dale are harmless “hillbillies” that a group of teens mistake for murderers and the teens accidentally kill themselves one-by-one while the survivors blame it all on Tucker and Dale. There’s a don’t judge a book by its cover theme here too, but it’s pretty superficial and this film is just a light horror comedy that’s worth a watch if you have some time.

5/10 (Watchable)

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

December 20, 2017

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hammill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern
Director: Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper)

Bottom Line: I feel like it’s important to note that I’m not a Star Wars fanatic. The series has always been overrated to me and while the original trilogy is definitely classic in the sense that they were groundbreaking films at the time and have had a tremendous affect on pop culture over the last 40 years, the movies themselves are merely enjoyable to me. I’m not wrapped up in all the mythology and I don’t watch all the movies again when a new one comes out. I haven’t seen a film in the prequel trilogy since Revenge of the Sith was in theaters. I did really enjoy The Force Awakens though and for the first time in my life I felt some of that Star Wars magic that everyone else is so enamored by.

The Last Jedi felt nothing like that. Right from the jump, we are hit with cringe-worthy dialogue and humor that doesn’t land. I chuckled one time during this movie and I was supposed to laugh a lot more than that. And then we are introduced to a Luke Skywalker that is nothing like your childhood hero. Even Mark Hammill hates this version.

I can’t get into all the minutiae of why this film is a poor follow up to The Force Awakens – I’ve seen fans nitpick all the relevant little details – but what I can say with confidence is that I was pretty bored while watching it and it was incredibly long for a movie that wasn’t highly entertaining. John Boyega’s Finn – one of the highlights of the previous film – has a much less interesting role this time around and goes on a side adventure that borders on prequel levels of terrible. I wasn’t a fan of Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren in the last film and this movie doesn’t help with that. Can you imagine Star Wars without Darth Vader? He’s a huge reason why those movies are memorable. Just a great villain. Kylo Ren is more similar to Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker than to Lord Vader – and that’s not a good thing. Plus, he spends this entire movie with his mask off. Ugh.

The Last Jedi does have some cool moments, but I think they occur far less often than dull or laughable ones. The critics enjoyed this movie, but I personally can’t recommend it. I can’t even say Star Wars diehards will love it because it seems as though the fan base is pretty split, but there are enough people that hate it, that I feel it’s fair to warn people to temper their expectations.

Replay Value: I don’t have much interest in seeing this again. My friend that went with me was happy to see it a second time though.
Sequel Potential: Episode IX is due out in 2019.
Oscar Potential: Star Wars movies are always strong candidates of Visual and Sound nominations. This movie will not be a contender for Best Picture.

Grade: 5/10 (Watchable)

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Coco (2017), Gerald’s Game (2017)

December 13, 2017

Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt
Director: Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Toy Story 2)

Bottom Line: I loved it. What a feel good movie about family, passion, music, love, loss, memory, and, of course, death. Coco is a return to form for Pixar, combining absolutely beautiful CG animation with memorable characters and an enriching, funny story that pulls at the heart strings. Bring your Kleenex! This is Pixar’s best original film since Up in 2009.

Replay Value: Pretty close to a must own. I would definitely enjoy watching this multiple times.
Sequel Potential: Hit animated films always have sequel potential, but I think this would work best as a standalone film.
Oscar Potential: Best Animated Film nomination is a lock. There is potential for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Possibly Best Original Song for “Remember Me.”

Grade: 8/10 (Must See)

Starring: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Mike Flanagan (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Hush)

Bottom Line: Gerald’s Game is a taut psychological thriller based on a short, overlooked Stephen King novel about a woman that goes on a remote cabin getaway with her husband in the hopes of rekindling their marriage. He cuffs her to the bed, she hates it, implores him to let her free, but… he has a heart attack and falls off the bed, wounding himself fatally. So she’s stuck there, handcuffed to the bed, with no food, and no company except a hungry, stray dog that wanders into the house and the figments of her deteriorating psychosis. Gerald’s Game is a surprisingly deep and emotional film considering the vast majority of it takes place on a bed with a woman that can barely move. Carla Gugino gives a phenomenal performance. This movie is streaming on Netflix and I definitely recommend it to anyone that enjoys psychological thrillers and doesn’t mind the claustrophobic circumstances.

Replay Value: Not a great candidate for multiple viewings, but it’s something you could revisit many years later.
Sequel Potential: Zero.
Oscar Potential: Carla Gugino is fantastic in this. Not sure how a Netflix movie plays into the Oscar races, but I’ll guess she doesn’t get much consideration.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

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Murder On The Orient Express (2017)

November 23, 2017

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom Jr., Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad
Director: Kenneth Branagh (Mama, Inception, Memento)

Bottom Line: I never read Agatha Christie’s novel that this film is based on so I have nothing to say about the source material or how well it was adapted by the screenwriters. The gist of the film revolves around a rather legendary detective named Hercule Poirot (played by director Kenneth Branagh) who finds himself aboard The Orient Express when one of his fellow passengers is murdered and is put to task to solve the crime.

Branagh gives such an uneven performance as Poirot that I found myself disconnected from the film very early on. Branagh starts the film off playing Poirot like he’s a Sacha Baron Cohen character and by the time I realized this movie was supposed to be taken seriously, I was already checked out. By the third act of the film, I was thinking Branagh was actually doing a pretty good job, but by that point, I had pretty much already dismissed his performance as cheesy.

Because of this rather monumental shift in tone, I just didn’t care much about what was going on. I don’t know if it’s Christie’s novel (I’m guessing no) or if the production team just did a poor job bringing the story to life. Branagh and his cinematographer do some interesting things with the camera and there is some gorgeous set pieces in the film, but the characters are just so unbelievably dull. I didn’t care about a single one of them.

Also, for all the phenomenal actors cast in this movie, no one really gives a notable performance. Again, I don’t know if it is weak characters or poor direction from Branagh, but I felt like pretty much everyone in the cast could have been replaced by some random actor and it wouldn’t really change anything. I can’t remember the last time Johnny Depp has played such a forgettable character – for better or for worse.

I was really disappointed with Murder On The Orient Express. When I first saw the trailer I was really intrigued – it looked great. The execution was just not good. I’m not really sure who this movie is for. I suspect Branagh thought he was making Oscar fodder, but it’s unlikely this movie is going to get any nominations. If it does, it will be for Cinematography or Art Direction, but the film has gotten such lukewarm responses that it will probably whiff entirely. I imagine there’s a good movie to be made with this story, but this isn’t the one. It was boring and Branagh seemed confused on what the tone should be. I can’t in good faith recommend it to anyone as I did not enjoy it myself.

Replay Value: I will likely never watch this version again.
Sequel Potential: Just did some digging and I see that Hercule Poirot is an iconic and prolific character in Agatha Christie canon. If this was a huge success, Branagh could have possibly parlayed it into his own iconic character. I predict this is the last time he plays Hercule Poirot on film. With so much material to adapt from a noteworthy author, however, this surely won’t be the last time the world sees the character on the big screen.
Oscar Potential: Very little. Some outside chances at the categories I mentioned earlier.

Grade: 4 (Forgettable)

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Justice League (2017)

November 20, 2017

Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Mamoa, Henry Cavill
Director: Zack Snyder (Man Of Steel, Watchmen, Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice)

Bottom Line: I can’t believe it. I didn’t hate it. It’s a miracle! Seriously, I really thought I would never like Justice League. Zack Snyder already disappointed me beyond belief with his abysmal Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice and I really thought the trailers for this movie looked like a total mess too. I had every expectation that it was going to suck and only a very small piece of me held out hope that it could be good.

I was so pleasantly surprised to enjoy this movie. I mean… it wasn’t amazing. It’s not going to crack my top 10 of 2017 and it’s not even in my top 3 superhero films of the year. But it didn’t suck! IT DIDN’T SUCK!!! YES!

All the members of the team get their moments to shine and the many concerns I had about Cyborg and Aquaman were quickly relieved. That’s not to say I’m looking forward to a Cyborg solo film – I really think that would do poorly – but he wasn’t cringe-worthy like I was expecting and I think he added to the film quite a bit. Jason Mamoa and Ezra Miller are great additions as Aquaman and The Flash, respectively.

Wonder Woman is still the star of this team. Gal Gadot is just perfect in that role and for whatever reason the filmmakers know how to make that character awesome.

I wish I could say the same for Batman. I like Affleck in the role, but in a lot of ways, I think Batman might be the weakest link in this crew – and it’s not because he’s a human being with no powers. Or maybe it is. A superhero like Batman worked amazingly well in the realistic world that Christopher Nolan crafted for his Dark Knight trilogy, but a movie like Justice League, which features heroes that can fly and aliens from other planets, well, Batman seems a little out of place. That seems to work just fine in an animated form, but something about seeing him involved in these crazy scenarios in live action form makes you think “maybe you should sit this one out, bud.” I dunno… maybe he will grow on me over time.

Justice League still has a really gloomy and grim setting, but there is a noticeable change in tone that adds quite a bit of humor and I think most of the jokes landed the laughs they were looking for. There are some great scenes involving Superman and Flash (weird… Superman returns – what a spoiler!) and another one with Wonder Woman’s lasso that you can’t help but think Joss Whedon added in post-production after Zack Snyder left the film due to a family tragedy. A little humor and charm certainly makes the movie far more enjoyable than its predecessor, which took itself so seriously it was almost comical.

Steppenwolf is the big baddie here and I’m honestly not familiar with him at all, despite watching the entire run of Justice League Unlimited and basically every animated film DC has released. Maybe I just missed him or forgot him, but I was pretty shocked when I heard a villain I’m completely unfamiliar with was who the JL would be battling in this movie. I thought he was okay. I guess he was believable as a formidable opponent for these superheroes, but there wasn’t anything particularly special or interesting about him.

All in all, I thought Justice League was a fun, but not great film. It certainly won’t convert anyone that’s anti-superhero movie, but it gives this fan of the genre hope for the DCEU going forward and it was honestly looking pretty grim last year. I am now looking forward to the next adventure. Bring on Darkseid!

Replay Value: I think I can enjoy this movie multiple times.
Sequel Potential: There are 19 movies in the pipeline for the DCEU at the moment, but only five of them have actual release dates and who knows how many of them will ever see the light of day. Aquaman comes out next year and Shazam! and Wonder Woman 2 are due out in 2019. A Justice League sequel will surely get made, but everything else DC has hinted at has to be taken with a grain of salt at this point.
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 6 (Recommended)