Category Archives: Movies

Best of 2017 – Film: Part 1 – Films

Best Films Collage Header

10 Best Films of the Year

  1. The Shape of Water

    It’s no contest. It’s not even a debate that Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is the best film of 2017. It represents, top to bottom, the very best of cinema. Guillermo’s vision is a technical and visual marvel that fully pulls you into this world he’s created, the lives of these characters. To the characters, The Shape of Water boasts a supremely impressive cast who make the world pop. Michael Shannon’s Strickland becomes one of cinema’s all time great villains, Doug Jones is at his monster best, and the true star Sally Hawkins effortlessly carries so much of the film with so little done. A silent performance, she pours every thought, every emotion, into every nod, every gesture, every look. Hawkins is perfect.
  2. Blade Runner 2049

    Not to dismiss the rest of the film, because it’s all definitely top 10 material, but the spectacle of Blade Runner 2049 is the headline of the film. The spectacle wouldn’t be near as impressive without the great script and subdued performances, to be fair. But Denis Villeneuve builds upon this world created by Phillip K. Dick and Ridley Scott, and really picks at the over arcing narrative of humanity and what it means to be human, and a lot of that relies on the stunning visual cues, both obvious and subtle. And it’s all built around this really tight mystery the enhanced by the less showy performances from Ryan Gosling, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Ana de Armas and Harrison Ford, turning in probably his finest performance of his long storied career.
  3. Get Out

    There’s a lot to unpack with this film, but all credit where it’s due, this film would have failed in lesser hands. I don’t think anyone other than Jordan Peele could have made Get OutIt’s a sharp, biting film that will be lost on a lot of audiences. And to be honest, as a white male, a lot of it was lost on me, on my first viewing. Peele’s film speaks to issues and experiences, both large and small scale, that I don’t experience, that I don’t see. It was only after hearing interviews with him where he talks about the deeper meanings behind what he was saying, that the real fear behind the film starts to take shape. Normally a film that requires a study guide doesn’t really do it’s job, but this is a case of it doing its job to an exceedingly high level. It works because it makes us take a long look at what it’s saying. It would have failed without Peele. It would have failed without Daniel Kaluuya’s knowing performance.
  4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Martin McDonagh’s  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is perhaps the most un-Coen Coen Brothers film that exists. It keeps the big characters and dark humour, but strips away that very particular Coen cadance. All of this is of course very high praise. It doesn’t come off as a knock-off Coen film, that’s just an easy analogy for people who are unfamiliar with McDonagh’s work, and considering the blank stares I get when I reference In Bruges or Seven Psychopaths, that’s still a lot of people. But for Three Billboards, it’s sold on the power of the two leads, of Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. They just crush it every step of the way.
  5. The Big Sick

    I don’t want to pin an entire movie on one scene… but there’s a scene in The Big Sick with Kumail Nanjiani, playing himself essentially, that just brings it all down. If you’ve seen the film, you know it, if you haven’t, you’ll know it when you see it. But it really brought the whole thing home for me. That’s what makes this romantic comedy work in all the ways most others don’t. That human element from Kumail and Zoe Kazan and Holly Hunter. You can relate to their story, whether it directly applies wholesale or not, there are elements that pluck the right strings. It’s perfectly written and very well acted.
  6. Dunkirk

    In Dunkirk, we get Christopher Nolan’s most minimalist film, but certainly one of his more intense.
  7. Logan

    Logan gives us a double rarity in the world of superhero movies: a mature and frank look at them aging, and a character finale. And it does so beautifully.
  8. Wonder Woman

    What sets Wonder Woman (and also Spider-Man: Homecoming) apart from the rest of the superhero pack, is that they celebrate the joy of being hero experienced by people who want to be heroes. She doesn’t see her duty as a burden. She wants to be a hero. And that’s a refreshing take on heroes.
  9. Baby Driver

    Edgar Wright’s action/music/comedy Baby Driver is just pure, unadulterated cinematic fun. Is it a popcorn flick trying to be prestige? Is it a prestige flick trying to be popcorn? It’s both. It’s popcorn and prestige.
  10. Okja

    The fantasy of Okja was wildly fun, with bordering on the cusp of a post-apocalypse. It almost feels like Joon-ho Bong wrote this as a sort of prequel to his 2013 hit Snowpiercer

Continue reading

Advertisements

Where A Tarantino Star Trek Could Go

The rumor that Quentin Tarantino is developing a Star Trek film is gaining traction again, now with reports that he’s met with J.J. Abrams and Paramount to work on a script, but It’s all still in super early stages. I have some ideas on what it could lead to, and also a few misgivings on Tarantino taking on a Star Trek film. And do note that I’m a massive fan of both Tarantino and Star Trek.

Tarantino Trek

Tarantino has expressed interest in doing a Trek film before, mostly as a fully fleshed out 2 hour plus version of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” (I’ll go into that later) which he went into on his Nerdist Podcast episode (relevant conversation starts about the one hour, eight minute mark). Earlier in that episode, he talked about how earlier in his career (I think it was just after Pulp Fiction) he toyed with the idea of doing a Luke Cage film, but he wasn’t confident in his ability to manage fan expectation, as he just wants to make HIS Luke Cage movie. And he’d want to make HIS Star Trek movie. I don’t think Tarantino could make HIS Trek movie while balancing studio notes and fan demands, both of whom are trying to “protect the brand.” So, much like last year’s Tarantino/Deadpool petition, as much as I’d love to see a Tarantino Trek film, two things I love, I don’t think we’d get a Tarantino Trek film, we’d get a Trek film with Tarantino’s name on it. Tarantino and franchises just aren’t a good fit. He’s got too defined a style and vision, that doesn’t jive with the studio goals for franchising films and creating cinematic universes.

That said: A fully fleshed out “Yesterday’s Enterprise” would be fantastic to fill in the holes only vaguely alluded to in the episode/franchise. And if I thought for one second that Tarantino would be allowed to make HIS Trek, I’ll be the first on board and in line to watch it. I think Paramount would do well to maybe do…. I guess an anthology franchise would be the best way to put it. They’ve got this big enormous sandbox of potential stories that have only ever been mentioned in the shows, in addition to a wide range of possibilities for Trek post-Voyager. Give some filmmakers carte blanche to make a Trek film. They don’t even need massive budgets to make it work. Tarantino could probably make a damn good one for $30million. Give the filmmakers a handful of guidelines to stick to so it’s still TREK, but otherwise, be bold.

Maybe test the waters with rebooting or remaking old stories (like “Yesterday’s Enterprise”) so you’re still kind of playing it safe, but going kinda wild with it. And the anthology comes in with “First movie is about this thing, second is about another thing with different characters, third is yet another story with still more different characters.” It’s kinda sorta what Disney/Lucasfilm is doing with Star Wars, kinda sorta what Disney/Marvel is doing with the MCU, but if they approach it right, as in, “Yeah, they’re all connected, it’s a big universe, but no one thing explicitly relies on or feeds into the other. They’re all their own thing.” Don’t make it an event. Just make it exist.

IF, and BIG IF, Tarantino’s talks with Abrams and Paramount do lead somewhere, I would actually love a full “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” movie. Full back story, Yesterday’s Enterprise is about Captain Picard’s Enterprise D encountering a temporal anomaly, with the Enterprise C breaking through from its own time 20 years in the past to join Picard in the present. The Enterprise C scored a decisive, yet sacrificial victory at the Battle of Narendra III, which saved the Klingons from a Romulan double cross. What’s important to note is that at the time of this battle, The Klingons and Romulans were allies against the Federation, but were in the middle of peace talks at Khitomer. The Federation’s sacrifice to save the Klingons, coupled with the Romulan betrayal, led to the Khitomer Accords being signed, aided by Captain Spock and Curzon Dax representing the Federation, and a longstanding peace treaty with the Klingons. But with the Enterprise C removed from that battle due to the aforementioned temporal anomaly, that battle ends differently, the treaty is never signed, and the Federation is in a longstanding war with the Klingons and Romulans.

“Yesterday’s Enterprise” stands as one of the best of that entire series, if not the entire 50 year history of the franchise, and I would love to see it bulked out and expanded on. There is a lot to that story that Tarantino could dive into. Tarantino’s ability to deftly maneuver between multiple story lines, in a fractured timeline, would make this a perfect marriage of art and artist.

Ultimately, I’m skeptical, but optimistically so.

There’s Still Time To Fix the Dark Universe

The Mummy is a very problematic film. It’s trying to be way too many things, and none of those things are what the film needs to be or should be. I get that Universal is trying to set up a Cinematic Universe, so they’re building a world, and using this film to do it. But the one thing they don’t get is that these Monsters aren’t superheroes.

When it was first announced that they were working on resurrecting their stable of classic monster films, with big names attached no less, I was excited. I grew up on the classics. Then trailers started rolling out and they looked exactly like the big budget action films they’re patterning the cinematic universe after. That’s not a knock on the MCU or the DCEU or Fox’s X-MenCU. They’re great, and they usually work for what they are. But that’s because the films fit the genre. The topics fit the genre. But we don’t need another big, loud, action-packed franchise/cinematic universe. We’ve got Avengers, Justice League, Star Wars, Transformers, Fast & Furious, and a handful of others.

What the audiance needs, what The Mummy needed to be, what the Dark Universe needs to be… is a horror franchise. A horror universe. These are monster/horror films. They don’t need to be action blockbuster tentpoles. They can be high budget horror films (which in that genre is really anything north of $5 million). These monsters, The Mummy, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, Creature From The Black Lagoon… they are the genesis for horror cinema. Don’t remove them from horror, and don’t remove horror from them.

What could Universal do with that? Dominate the fall. Just own October. Disney’s releasing a Star War every Christmas. Marvel & DC are duking it out in the summer. Just release a monster movie every Halloween. That could be THEIR thing.

Hell… follow in the Marvel/Lucasfilm footsteps of bringing in an indie/auteur director who made some waves to bring a unique eye to your films. Indie horror is huge right now. Get a horror filmmaker, one who’s had a hit over the past few years, have them conceive your film. Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), Robert Eggers (The Witch), Trey Edward Shults (It Comes At Night), David Robert Mitchell (It Follows), Mike Flanagan (Hush), Fede Alvaraz (Don’t Breathe), Adam Winegard (You’re Next, The Guest), Anne Billar (The Love Witch), or go foreign for some added flare, like Julia Ducournau (Raw) from France or Sang-Ho Yeon (Train to Busan) from South Korea. All of them could bring something to the table to make these insanely good films that people would want to watch. Get them all together, say “This is our grand design for the franchise, drive your films toward it, but how you get there is up to you.” Then let the artists work.

Treat it like a horror franchise. Not an action franchise. Universal already has one in Fast & Furious. Horror is notoriously low risk/high reward (for studios, anyway). They could easily spend a modest $50 million (modest for studios), get a good cast and crew together, make some bank at the box office. And have themselves a nice tidy franchise on your hands.

Back to The Mummy, I felt like Sofia Boutella was the only one who understood that it was a horror film. She was operating and performing at a different level. She got it. It’s just too bad no one else did. Everyone was making a boring action movie with no discernable sense of direction. She made a monster-horror film. So Universal… please, I beg you… take a cue from Boutella. Make these as horror films. You’ll make some money, and the audience will dig it.