With 2017 a little over half-way through, I think now is a good time to go back through the last six months of the year and reflect upon my personal top 10 of the year (so far) so that I can compare it later to my eventual “Top 10 of 2017” list. I must admit, there are a few critically-acclaimed stand-outs so far this year that I have not gotten around to viewing due to differing reasons (i.e. Your Name, It Comes at Night, Raw, The Lost City of Z, Personal Shopper), but will be viewed in time for our eventual Top 10 Best Films of 2017 article later in the year.
10. Okja (Dir. Bong Joon-ho)
Although I found the first few opening minutes of this film to be quite a slog and difficult to watch, Bong Joon-ho’s Netflix original Okja managed to win me over with its heart and sincerity. Once past the first 10 minutes or so, the film manages to pick up in its spectacle and child-like wonder of a girl and her best-friend super-pig, which more than makes up for its rather slow(er) second half. Tilda Swinton delivers a spectacular performance and Paul Dano again proves that he’s one of the best young actors of his generation.
Final grade: Solid B.
9. The Lego Batman Movie (dir. Chris McKay)
The latest building-block in the Lego Cinematic Universe, The Lego Batman Movie managed to surprise critics and fans alike, veering the iconic Batman into a funny yet surprisingly emotional and sentimental take. Filled with earnest and heart, the film takes advantage of the extensive Bat-family and Justice League to drive in the message of family and loneliness. With a plethora of famous characters from outside of D.C. properties (like Voldemort and Sauron), director Chris McKay and company reach into the vaults of Lego properties, resulting in a massively fun and daring film.
Final Grade: High B.
8. Wonder Woman (dir. Patty Jenkins)
As you can recall from one of my past reviews, my love for Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman was exponential after my initial viewing. After a subsequent re-watch and many hours of thought, my love for the film decreased slightly due to the film’s messy third act. Although, no matter my thoughts on the last 30 minutes or so of the film, Wonder Woman is absolutely delightful. With strong main leads, terrific performances, and a sincere message, Wonder Woman came right when it was needed. Empowering, motivational, and compassionate, Wonder Woman helped cement its titular character as one of the best on-screen heroes in cinema today.
Final Grade: High B.
7. Spider-Man: Homecoming (dir. John Watts)
Everyone’s favorite New York City web-slinger is back (again!) and finally home. Back in Marvel’s grasp (sorta), it’s nice seeing Spidey back in capable hands and used to his fullest potential. Now part of the MCU, the possibilities for Spider-Man seem endless, as Marvel reaches all the way back to the original Avengers to set up what is possibly the best Marvel villain since Loki – the Vulture (Michael Keaton). Coming into the role of Spider-Man is newcomer Tom Holland, last seen in Captain America: Civil War. Giving possibly the best performance of Peter Parker/Spider-Man on film yet, Holland and co. help cement Spider-Man’s place in the MCU, opening the door for endless possibility.
Final Grade: B+
6. Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)
Perhaps the most tightly-written film of the year, Get Out is absolutely one of most re-watchable films of 2017 thus far. Every detail in this film has a purpose, every line muttered carrying the weight of the film on each breath. With a story that manages to go as off-the-rails as this one, it’s easy for a director to lose sight of his vision and let the story veer off into insanity. Peele keeps a tight grip on the film, reeling the film down to reality and making it feel grounded in reality while letting the supernatural trickle in small, contained doses. With a tight script, great acting, and outstanding atmosphere, director Jordan Peele delivers one of the finest thrillers in recent years.
Final Grade: A-
5. Baby Driver (dir. Edgar Wright)
In a summer chock-full of cinematic universes, sequels, and reboots, Baby Driver pulled up as the summer of 2017’s breath of fresh air. An original film from director Edgar Wright, Baby Driver provides the most fun of any film in 2017 thus far. Incredibly fast-paced and thrilling, the film sweeps audiences up in the energy the film exuberates, leaving audiences careening in their seats and cheering from the title drop to the end credits.
Final Grade: A-
4. War for the Planet of the Apes (dir. Matt Reeves)
With the newest installment in the Apes trilogy (Rise, Dawn, and now, War) director Matt Reeves establishes his three-film run as one of the best trilogies of the last several years. With poignant directing, standout performances from Andy Serkis (Caesar) and Woody Harrelson (the Colonel), and perhaps the best CGI in recent years, War for the Planet of the Apes is a profound, emotional, action-fueled experience to cap off one of the great achievements in recent Hollywood history.
Final Grade: A
3. John Wick: Chapter 2 (dir. Chad Stahelski)
An avid lover of mindless action films, this series is like cinema porn for me. To me, the recent John Wick series is everything that matters in an action film like this. Great acting, fantastic, easy-to-follow action, and plenty of jaw dropping “OH SHIT!” moments. Not only does John Wick: Chapter 2 hit all the beats of its predecessor, Chapter 2 takes it up a notch with its fantastic world-building and set pieces. Full of adrenaline, John Wick: Chapter 2 is the most fun, heart-pumping, audacious action film since Mad Max: Fury Road.
Final Grade: A
2. Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)
Beautiful in the most unique of ways, Dunkirk is more than just a war film. A tale of survival and hope, Dunkirk paints a picture of war that Hollywood has not seen since Speilberg’s Saving Private Ryan. Loud, bombastic, and gripping, Dunkirk comes at you from every angle to give the viewer just a sliver of what it was like on the beaches of France throughout the time the soldiers were stranded there. Ambitious in its scope and methods, Dunkirk provides one of the most intense, heart-pounding war films in recent memory, and Nolan’s best film yet.
Final Grade: A+
1. Logan (dir. James Mangold)
With relatively small stakes, James Mangold is given the opportunity to get up close and personal with the story, diving into the life of an old, grumpy ex-superhero of which the likes of cinema has never seen before. Finally introduced to the hyper-violent, foul-mouthed Wolverine that fans have been dreaming of, Logan grounds us and brings us closer to the visceral life of Wolverine after the X-Men. The grounded-ness of the film brings forth a much more mature movie, with well-known themes and philosophies like “time” and “family” carrying much more emotional weight than they could have otherwise. Hugh Jackman’s final film as the iconic Wolverine, Logan provides an immensely emotional departure from the character of the iconic series, and delivers one of the greatest superhero films ever created.
Final Grade: A+