Welcome to 2017!
This year promises to be a very fulfilling year for cinema, especially given that 2016 was such a monumental year for the medium, I mean, just look at what happened at The Academy Awards earlier this year? Two Best Picture winners? While I truly believed that Moonlight championed its rival in 2016, both Moonlight and La La Land will always be, famously and unanimously associated with one another.
Luckily for us, no matter how many years pass, cinema always seems to be evolving, for better, or for worse, depending how you see it [depending on how much of an optimist or pessimist you are]. Whether it be the forum of the medium, the medium itself, its format or just the way stories are told and presented, cinema is a child constantly growing up.
While last year saw Arrival at the top of our list, the film itself wasn’t released until its TIFF and festival premieres in September. Luckily for us cinephiles, 2017 is not even close to being done, and some of the best films of the year have yet to make an appearance to the silver screen yet, slowly making their grand entrances thanks to some of the most revealing film festivals of the year (TIFF, Telluride, Venice, etc). Luckily for us, 2017 has STILL delivered some great cinematic entries already.
But of course, with all the good, there has to be the bad. So, as I do with every list, I always include a WORST list of films that should be avoided at ALL COST. But, to focus more on the positive, this year, for the mid-way point list, we are only going to include our TOP worst film of 2017 film of the year.
Top Worst Film of 2017 so far is none other than;
There have been many films in the history of cinema where actor’s personalities and characteristics are incorporated into the characters they portray on screen, and, going even further, there have been many films where it seems that the actors aren’t really acting, and just playing themselves. The same can easily be said with Fist Fight, a promising comedy between two teachers pitted against one another for a dream-come true film scenario where, two teachers decide to rough it up on school grounds, and have a fist fight. Unfortunately, the film discussed is nothing farther than any amped up testosterone, semi-action film with no merit or consequences. The biggest issue falls with its stars and the supporting cast, who go too overboard, even for themselves. Ice Cube, who plays Mr.Strickland, is an over the top, pissed off and stressed out teacher who already crosses the lines in his classroom. Charlie Day plays Mr.Campbell, a whiny, sell-out and wimpy human being who does absolutely ridiculous acts to make sure he is in the clear, and everyone around him is punished severely. Joining these two poor actors are a slew of talented actors playing absolutely unbelievable teachers/sociopaths, including Dean Norris, Kumail Nanjiani, Dennis Haysbert, Tracy Morgan and, if you can believe it, a pocket knife wielding Christina Hendricks. Fist Fight is easily one of the most atrocious entries to the medium in a long time, especially since, throughout the whole film, you can’t help but notice, everyone taking everything so serious. The only thing Fist Fight made me want to do, was have a fist fight with whoever green-lit this film.
And now, on to the good stuff. Here there are, the best of 2017…thus far!
12. The Boss Baby
When an animated film that isn’t Pixar or Disney is on this list, you know it has to be good! While The Boss Baby will certainly NOT be the film to put Dreamworks Animation Studio ahead of the biggest Hollywood studio in the WORLD [Disney], it is really nice to see Dreamworks up their game, and deliver inventive, creative and truly original content that appeals so well to children and adults alike. The Boss Baby had me laughing, crying and truly wide-eyed with utter cuteness for its whole brisk runtime. While the voice cast wasn’t as large as the recent live action adaptations of Disney, the film focuses on its main protagonist The Boss Baby, voiced wonderfully by Alec Baldwin, whose blend of serious tones with the most gibberish induced words ever put onto film, allows the film’s serious flow to be a strong inhibitor of the laughs at hand. Add the unique voice of Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow and of course, Tobey Maguire, and you have a voice cast that not only excels with the gibber/gabber of the scripts ridiculous words and phrases, but a film that makes each and every scene as enjoyable and wonderful as the last. Spoofing parenthood as a whole with very subtle and almost unnoticeable miss-en-scene from just one viewing, The Boss Baby takes the whole innocent idea of baby making, to a family friendly animated film that could easily be a patriarchal classic.
11. The Wall
Never, ever did I think that I would include a film on my “Top of” list with wrestler John Cena, but alas, such is a beauty of cinema. While I’ve always been a big fan of Aaron Taylor-Johnson since The Illusionist, as well as my personal favourite, his role in Oliver Stone’s highly underrated Savages, one of the things that ALMOST made me hate the actor was when, earlier this year, Johnson won The Golden Globe statuette over Mahershala Ali for his highly over-acted role in Tom Ford’s truly overrated Nocturnal Animals as a super stereotypical hick. Luckily, The Academy, The SAGs, and pretty well every other major acting awards congratulated Ali with praise of this role as the influential Juan in Moonlight. Anxious to see what Johnson had next following his big and surprising win, he comes in red hot with Doug Liman’s three man war film, The Wall. While The Wall will get very direct comparisons to Phone Booth, it is far from a typical thriller intent on copying other films. Instead, the film is a very conscious and self-reflexsive war film that touches upon many of the questions and scenarios we, as civilians not living in the United States of America, would ask ourselves. Playing around with many very interesting narrative choices, including to never show the main antagonist at any given point in the film (this is not a spoiler); and allowing the audience to come up with its own conclusions, the film is one of my most enjoyable Iraqi war films in…well, maybe ever. Johnson delivers; Cena is fantastic in a small role of the All-American, typical war hero, and our baddie Laith Nakli gives Keifer Sutherland and Christoph Waltz a run for their money as the mysterious caller on the other end of Sergeant Isaac’s walkie talkie. This is one film, along with the next one on our list, that will have you talking and discussing for a long time after the final credits roll.
10. The Circle
While you can almost guarantee that this film is no The Social Network by any means; not because we have anything against the super talented James Ponsoldt, or any of its stars, or the author of the original source material Dave Eggers, but when you have David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin making a film, its hard to top it. Luckily for us, The Circle is a fantastic vision of a future of transparency and the lack of privacy in the world. Emma Stone stars as Mae, a very fortunate regular girl who, with the help of her very ambitious and close friend Annie (Karen Gillan) gets the opportunity of a lifetime, working for a quickly rising tech company in Silicon Valley. With lots of help, and a little luck mixed in with perfect timing, Mae becomes the apple to partnered CEO’s Bailey (Tom Hanks) and Stenton (Patton Oswalt) eyes. Unfortunately, not everything goes as planned, as the two become trapped in Mae’s ever-changing world. The Circle much like the previous film on this list, is one that highly encourages discussion after its dramatic finale. The film touches upon ideas of privacy, non-profit organizations and the ever growing and concerning rise of technology in our everyday lives. If you know ANYONE who is tech savvy, or considers them a very expressive humanitarian, this is absolutely a must for them; just be ready to have life-altering conversations that might test your relationship and your perspectives of one another quite surprisingly. The Circle might even make you reconsider signing into your social. They’re watching you! “Knowing is good, but knowing everything…is better!”
9. It Comes At Night
Imagine the BEST episode of The Walking Dead ever, now multiply it by a thousand and explode all your expectations of the best survival scenario the writers could come up with…got it? Well, you now have It Comes At Night. The film at our number nine spot can easily exchange spots with any number, and I will tell you the reason why its number nine specifically. First off, I have only seen it once, which is a reason why it isn’t higher. This film is one that would absolutely be flattered and evolve with multiple viewings. The minute details, its small innuendos and of course, the unanswered questions absolutely BOGGLE YOUR MIND! You are constantly asking yourself why? What for? And what is the importance and relevance of this, that and everything in-between? While the premise and the film’s trailer may allow your imagination to wander, the film really allows itself to shine because of its simplicity and ability to be deep-rooted in reality and shrouded in mystery. Trey Edward Shults’, who’s only other directing credit was the festival fav Krisha, brings to life a harrowing world where no one person can trust the other, whether they be family, friends or strangers. It Comes At Night never really specifies what comes at night, who is at risk, what the danger is or why the world has faced this sudden threat, all we know is what we see on the screen, and luckily for us, its more than enough for us to talk, banter, argue and just wonder about what we would do, and how we would do it, if we were in the found in the same situations as our protagonists/antagonists group of strangers. Its hard not to, but keep an eye out for Joel Edgerton, who proves that with each and every new role, he is an acting force to be reckoned with. Edgerton proves time and time again, as an actor, writer and director, that he is meant to be exactly where he is, and do not be surprised if you see him doing an acceptance speech anytime soon.
8. The Zookeeper’s Wife
In a medium that saturates itself with films based and surrounding one of the most influential and prominent historical event of human history, The Zookeeper’s Wife succeeds wildly thanks to its interpretation of telling a very reminiscent story of war torn humanity in a setting that is fresh, exciting and almost never imagined. In addition to being a unique story told during World War II, The Zookeeper’s Wife is also very fortunate to include some very strong performances; one, of course, is by one of the most amazing actresses working today in Jessica Chastain; as well as, easily, one of the most consistently affecting foreign actors working in the industry in Daniel Brühl. The Zookeeper’s Wife is an extraordinary war film that adopts simple and effective story-telling and shows the true beauty of humanity conquering all. It’s no surprise that 2017 features an abundance of films that explicitly showcase stories and performances about the beauty of people’s unfathomable will to survive, which, sadly in 2017, should not be a theme, but the perseverance of people are always such a wonderful story’s to see on the silver screen. The Zookeeper’s Wife is one of these films.
7. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Okay, so we all know that, by now, if you own a television, or a laptop, or any other type of device with a screen, that you more than likely partake in the watching of Game of Thrones, and if you don’t, well then, something has to be wrong with you, right? In a post-Lord of The Rings era of medieval films, GoT is the new norm and par anything needs to meet in order to be deemed worthy. Thanks to all the strong gore, violence, incest, sex, nudity and absurdity Thrones throws at its audience, the television series is as close to a television media cult as you could get, and if you haven’t hooped on the band wagon, a lepar’s life is the life for you. While I’m not one to judge any one person’s intake of escapism, sadly, now when it comes to modern day medieval films, audiences have become so desensitized that when they see an exceptional period folklore tale come to life, they ignore it. Hence, why King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is quickly becoming one of the biggest box offie bombs of the year. Yet, thanks to the creative and signature story telling that made Guy Ritchie popular and noticed in the first place, Ritchie’s Arthur is an excitingly stellar vision of the legend. While I will certainly be one of the few people to agree with this entry on our list, I will gladly justify it. For one, a thing of beauty that can be understood about this film is allowing us to compare it directly to Ritchie’s other blockbuster passion piece, Sherlock Holmes. Holmes, which was received much better critically and commercially, did have many people on the fence, mostly surrounding Holmes unrecognizable boxing techniques in the film. In keeping in the same modernization of combat, Ritchie’s Arthur is a samurai wielding sword slinger in this adaptation, which I hear makes a lot of people upset, but once you get over that, King Arthur is a hard movie not to love. Special effects may not be Ritchie’s forte, as one can see in Arthur, Ritchie offers so much more than video-game level SFX, Ritchie offers depth to a very tormented character, and finds this pain and struggles amplified in his casting choice of Hunnam. Hunnam embraces Arthur like no one else before, abandoning the conventional way of telling Arthur’s story many years before when Clive Owen played the titular heroic figure; Humman’s physical and mental transformation of the King is one that really amplified the royalty and grit of the film’s protagonist.
King Arthur, when given a chance, is an extremely appealing summer blockbuster that just needed to be seen. Filling each scene with extreme talent on and off camera, including and not forgetting director Guy Richie, composer Daniel Pemperton (Steve Jobs), cinematographer John Mathison, Hunnam, Jude Law, Eric Bana, Aidan Gillen, Dijmon Hounsou and many more, Legend of the Sword was easily one of the films this year that had me excited exiting the theatre. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was sexy, without being sleazy, action packed, without being squirm inducing, tense, without being brutal, seductive, without being overbearing, and fun without having to try too hard. Blending a fantastic mix of music, action and story-telling, the real legend is born once the credits roll on this film.
In case you don’t believe me, I also conducted a social experiment with the film. On my first screening of the film, I invited one of my closest friends who I know was a GoT fan. The deal was this; if he liked the film, I watch the first episode of Thrones ( I don’t have a lot of free-time people), if he doesn’t, then I don’t bother. Lets just say, the first episode of the Thrones did not get me watching any more the elongated series. Oh, and to convince you guys further, for the first time, I will feature two trailers for this film, because I truly believe, it is a summer gem that NEEDS to be seen.
And here is trailer #2 (man I love that montage):
6. Get Out
Get Out will easily be remembered for many years to come. Aside from the film holding a slew of 2017 records, including; the most profitable film of 2017 (so far), director Jordan Peele being the first film for an African-American to surpass $100 million at the box office on a debut feature, the highest grossing film for Blumhouse pictures, and most impressively, the highest grossing debut for an original script/concept, Get Out will do anything but get out of our heads when it comes to our end of the year lists. In addition to all these milestones, the image pictured above will easily hold its place and concrete itself as one of 2017’s most striking and original images, as well as being a long lasting cultural milestone for many years to come. Labelled as the first truly social/political thriller in the Trump era, Get Out is an unforgettable, unstoppable and truly marvellous film about the ever-present cultural and racial issues plaguing the United States of America, sadly, even in 2017. Simply put, as a modern and contemporary Stepford Wives with people of colour, I do not think anyone thought that such a simple premise would be so funny, yet so disturbing at the same time. Get Out is a timely masterpiece that gets people talking; makes a statement, but most importantly, challenges the many tropes of the genre and spins them on its head, many times over. Thank goodness and bravo to brave filmmaking, and thank you to the once obscure Jordan Peele, Daniel Kaluuya and Lil Rey Howery for their remarkable contributions to one of 2017’s most controversial and discussed film.
5. Before I Fall
Another entry on this list that I am SURE I am going to have to justify, Before I Fall was a film that I absolutely fell in love with once I left the theatre, and I can assure you it is not because I am so in love and have the biggest crush on Zoey Deutch. There has been no other film this year that has left such an personal, emotional and moving stamp on me this year than this little film and the very real and commonly overlooked subject matter it tackles. While many will immediately peg it as another Groundhog’s Day type film, the repetition of Samantha’s (Deutch) seemingly ordinary day takes new shapes and forms as something old/new day unravels each time. Playing as a very clever and emotionally responsive narrative technique, Samantha’s life and death takes new shapes and forms, and the appreciation that she conjures up each time is inspiring and hopeful. While many of you will shrug your shoulders on this one, or even roll your eyes, especially after seeing the trailer, I can assure you, just because a film is directed at a certain demographic (teenagers here) does not mean that the merit and message the film is conveying should be taken any less serious. As you might remember, 2016 also brought the highly underrated Edge of Seventeen, a coming-of-age, teenager film with many important messages about becoming who you are meant to become, adulthood and youthfulness, as many other films directed at adults. Lets not forget that 2016 also brought us Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!, a college comedy with lots of heart and challenging dialogue surrounded by a cocky baseball varsity team. High school, university and college are all very formative times for adolescents, and Before I Fall seems to be a film that is intent on showcasing and really repeating the notion that, life is meant to be lived and loved, by the person doing the living and loving. Before I Fall may not be the film you find on everyone’s favourite list in 2017, but it surely was a favourite of mine, simply for its fantastic mysterious tone, its high school dynamic within a circular narrative, and most of all, for its ability to give people the opportunity to look at their lives, and live them, like there may not be a tomorrow, especially in a social media/image driven age of youth society.
Some films are truly gifts to embrace, watch and enjoy, and Gifted is one of those films. Heartwarming, endearing and simply sweet, the film is one that strives off the emotional response of its audience. Showing the sensitive side of one of Marvel’s favourite superheroes, Chris Evans allows his tender side to shine when he is placed with the immense responsibility of taking care and raising his niece, who has her own secrets and wonders, one’s she is shrouding from the world. Taking the cake for the best chemistry seen so far in 2017, Evans and youngster McKenna Grace share each and every scene with absolute delight and pleasure. McKenna, who will surely be a fantastic actress with new and coming roles, shows her range as prodigy child genius whose main concern has to do less with figuring out the most challenging mathematical equations in the world, and more with following your heart and doing what is right for the people you love most. If you aren’t sold on the film through this little blurb, check out the full review to one of 2017’s most gut-wrenchingly infectious films here.
3. Girls Trip
You know what, I am going to go ahead and say it, this list may not be what people are expecting…at all. Yet, the same could be said with my number three entry of 2017, the wildly entertaining and remarkably funny Girls Trip. Not only is Girls Trip my favourite comedy of the year so far, but this hysterical comedy about the close bonds of friendship, forgiveness and girl power had me laughing, crying and almost peeing myself with hilarity as soon as the credits rolled. In addition to holding the title of the most surprising film in 2017 for myself, the film also holds the title for featuring one of my favourite performances of the year with completely break-out performance by Tiffany Haddish, a one-man crude comedy show filled with some of the most ridiculous and absurd one-liners, the most effective physical comedy and a plethora of innate wisdom and mischief in a comedic character since Vince Vaughan’s Jeremy Grey in Wedding Crashers. Add the comedic mix of Queen Latifah’s solid nuanced comedy, Regina Hall’s straight-up impressions and facial comedic talents, as well as Pinkett Smith’s satirical flair, Girls Trip becomes the year’s most unexpected hit and a film we cannot wait to watch again. Do not kid yourself either, Girls Trip is a self-aware comedy that not only delivers the laughs in strides, but also a very serious film that flexes its girl muscles and takes the time to really stress the importance of femininity and what it truly means to being a strong, independent woman in this very confusing and ever-evolving world dominated by men. Girls, go out with your girls, forget Sex in the City, pack some grapefruits, and watch this film!
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
While many of my childhood friends, who have had a little glimpse of my list before it was published, had their own comments about my ever-changing list this year, one thing became clear, 2017 is quickly becoming a time to reflect upon things of the past; a year of nostalgia. On August 23rd 2001, I will never forget the first time I saw the first ever Sam Raimi Spider-Man teaser trailer. What starts off as a very generic trailer of a bank robbery, slowly unravels into the first ever cinematic appearance of everyone’s favourite superhero.
Upon first hearing about the news that Marvel was going to take the reigns from Sony and tackle another Spider-Man film, the grunts and groans from everyone could be heard. I mean, it is a little much. In a little under twenty years, we are being introduced to Peter Parker for the first time, for a third time. While Raimi’s first two installations of the friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler can rest assured of being the best ever depicted, its not hard to come out and say that Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming is easily an incredibly entertaining and wonderful new direction for Peter Parker and one of the most iconic superheroes of all time. After his brief appearance in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland’s depiction of a nerdy kid with some big responsibilities takes full stage in Homecoming, a truly entertaining summer blockbuster with enough comedy, wit, action and truly inventive and original storytelling techniques in a super hero film since The Dark Knight. Holland is wonderful as Spidey and Parker, really finding a true blend of mixing both Maguire’s Parker and Garfield’s Peter that allows audience members to really fall in love and forget about all the other nuances and mannerisms of the character in previous films. Spider-Man: Homecoming is pure Hollywood joy in the very underwhelming summer of 2017. Thanks to an interesting twist on the villain motive, thanks to almost half of Hollywood contributing to the script (one of the things that had me worried about the film before seeing it), Homecoming certainly found a home in the Marvel cinematic Universe, with audiences, and most importantly, in all of our hearts. Spider-Man: Homecoming truly brings out the kid in all of us, and while many may have argued that this interpretation was a bit too childish and animated for their liking, I can almost guarantee that Peter Parker and Spider-Man will get darker, more sinister and better with each and new entry.
When I first saw the trailer for Christopher Nolan’s newest feature film, his first foray into the War genre, I was not impressed; not one bit. Upon my initial viewing, I couldn’t help but noticed how unoriginal, how mundane and most of all, how much of what was shown in the trailer, looked like so many other war films that came before it. This might come as a bit of a shock to everyone, but other than The Dark Knight trilogy, and of course, the film that shaped my love and appreciation of cinema for the rest of my life, Memento, Nolan’s films were always a bit underwhelming for me. Films like Inception, Insomnia were just okay for me, The Prestige and Interstellar impressed me widely, but Dunkirk floored me, completely. Talk about taking an event in human history, and presenting it in a wholly new and original way. With Dunkirk, Nolan proves that telling a good story, has a lot to do with the way its executed, and Dunkirk is the best told story on film in 2017 so far! Taking three separate perspectives of The Battle of Dunkirk; by land, sea and by air, Nolan ties in all the timelines of every single human soul and individual who had some sort of impact in the way that The Battle of Dunkirk unfolded.
Rounding up an incredibly talented cast, from actors Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Jack Lowden, James D’Arcy, Kenneth Branagh and of course, the always amazing Tom Hardy, to a remarkable crew in the legendary Hans Zimmer, director of photography Hoyte Van Hoytema and many others, Dunkirk is a shot to the heart and truly defines what it means to connect with a piece of cinema. Nolan masters his skills with each and every new feature, submerging his audiences in one of the most visceral war movies ever created. Truly gripping, Nolan takes his signature. cerebral story-telling techniques in a non-linear and truly original narrative of survival, love and the bonds of brotherhood, friendship and love to new levels in one of the most emotionally draining and wrenching films of 2017. If you only see one film this year so far, make sure its Dunkirk; it will have you cheering, soaring and tearing with utter happiness and joy.
Honoruable Mention: Detroit.
So there you have it folks, this year’s BEST OF…Thus far list, as curated and created from us here at Night Film Reviews. We hope you have as much fun reading this editorial as we had making it, even though we were wracking our brains trying to figure out exactly where each film should be placed on this list.
2017 is just beginning when it comes to films. And with only a couple weeks/days in the summer movie season, and all the amazing festival films making their debuts, and yes, there are quite a few, we cannot wait to see how 2017 shapes up.
So, without further ado, please read, watch, and enjoy our list and allow your eyes, ears and hearts to be gracefully consumed, by some of the best moments of film this year.