There is a lot of pressure in the tsunami of cinematic superheroes to make something that will stand out from the crowd, but Ryan Coogler is more than up to the challenge with Black Panther. He doesn’t merely give the hero first introduced in Captain America: Civil War a standard solo film to showcase his powers, world, and rogues gallery. Coogler loads his picture up with a unique style, purpose, and, yes, even politics, to create one of Marvel Studio’s best films and not just a bridge to Avengers: Infinity War.
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I know the story of Peter Rabbit, the blue-jacket wearing rabbit that didn’t listen to her mother and was almost killed by Mr. McGregor for entering his garden. Ah, but this isn’t that same Beatrix Potter tale. Some executive or producer thought that classic book was too old and lame to be hip with today’s kids. Today’s Peter Rabbit needs to be a character that is rude, crude, and condescendingly snarky with his slapstick battles against McGregor set to the tune of today’s top radio music. Also, he kills people.
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You can usually tell when a film about Americans doesn’t feel as though it’s directed by one. If you saw Hacksaw Ridge, you could see that Mel Gibson gave the story of Desmond Doss a real perspective and a purpose. Despite the abundance of bloody war scenes, it wasn’t just about the war, but about a philosophy on saving lives in a time of war and how one person can do so much. This is not the case of 12 Strong, a film that seems more concerned with staging cool shots of soldiers on horses than taking in the more personal aspects of such an operation.
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2017 was certainly an interesting year of movies. Marvel Studios did the same old thing with Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, a brand new thing with Spider-Man: Homecoming, and slap a technicolor coat on Thor: Ragnarok. DC Comics finally delivered a solid effort with Wonder Woman, only to go back to their messily reshot ways with Justice League. Star Wars tried something uniquely different with The Last Jedi and severely divided fans. Alien: Covenant tried a compromise of philosophies and horror and severely divided fans. No division on Universal’s action-oriented approach to the Dark Universe with Tom Cruise’s The Mummy; most everyone hated that film. But that’s not what’s on this list. These are the best movies of 2017, compiled from the 200+ I’ve watched this year.
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In the era of so-called fake news and questioning of journalistic integrity, Steven Spielberg’s The Post is both eerie and timely. It’s a mostly reactionary piece to be sure that focuses more on the importance of the Washington Post’s contribution to free press and representation. And, yes, it does slam its points home with the power of Thor’s hammer. But in an age when we tend to devalue journalism to such a degree, such an impact feels warranted.
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Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul have been hailed for their amazing lyrical work on last year’s musical hit La La Land, a film with a stunningly invigorating soundtrack of jazz and orchestral wonder. They’re touted on the poster of The Greatest Showman as being hired to breathe that same amount of energy and toe-tapping to the tale of showman P.T. Barnum. Much like Barnum, they do a stellar job at hoodwinking audiences into attending this spectacle for the promise of an entertaining musical. And while director Michael Gracey certainly delivers music and sequences of grand design, there’s an aroma of a machine to its assembly as opposed to the heartfelt biopic of amazing feats this production was going for.
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The Shape of Water presents the argument of why director Guillermo del Toro should be directing the new crop of Universal monster movies and why he will never be chosen for such an honor. He should be directing those films because he has a playful and experimental vision in both direction and tone for crafting an unorthodox creature feature. He won’t be selected because his ideas are just too out there if Universal wants their monster properties to nab some of that blockbuster cash. I can’t imagine general summer audiences would dig a film where a woman has sex with an amphibian creature in a romantic manner.
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There’s a promising and foreboding line by Luke Skywalker: “This is not going to go the way you think it will.” Indeed, The Last Jedi aims for the unexpected as the dark and revealing bridge film of this latest trilogy. Questions are answered with shocking revelations, characters must make tough calls in their loyalties, and there’s no guarantee anybody will make it out of this film alive. There’s a lot to take in as writer/director Rian Johnson has filled this movie with so much character, mythos, themes and action that it becomes overwhelming at times. He doesn’t waste our time, but he doesn’t give us much room to breathe in his somberly stirring epic that becomes draining by the time those blue credits roll.
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When Gary Oldman first appears on screen as Winston Churchill, I couldn’t believe it was him. He embodies the historical figure with the right amount of girth, waddling and cantankerous mutterings of a man with the noisy gears constantly grinding in his head. It is such a flawless performance that director Joe Wright lets his camera get in close to notice every detail; the quivering of his lips as he prepares to deliver a speech, the solace he seeks in every cigar, and the look of doubt buried deep within his eyes. Oldman loses himself so deeply in the role that the audience does as well, making for one of his best performances of his career.
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Tommy Wiseau is a fascinating director. The Disaster Artist begins with interviews of real celebrities talking about him and his film The Room as if he was a genius that had created a masterpiece. This includes actors such as Adam Scott, wishing he could go back in time to be on that set, and directors J. J. Abrams and Kevin Smith who applaud Wiseau. Were they joking or were they serious? Or both? For the knowing crowd at the screening who had all seen The Room, myself included, we started laughing quite early at these statements. This is a film which presents an intoxication of bad filmmaking that is so potent it’s easy to get lost in the ridiculous haze of the enigma that is Tommy.
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