Remember how we spent a good deal of 2016 talking about how goddamn long it felt? Well, 2017 hasn’t fared much better and sometimes it’s a big reality check to realize it’s only JULY. In that time while your blood pressure, night terrors and vice consumption may have escalated, quite a few movies have been released and quite a few are pretty good by our accounts! It is interesting to take in the films that were the most celebrated here at TYF from nihilistic horror films, to empowering depictions of women (directed by women!) to the easy and delightful escapism of superhero films. We live in wild times and these films represent our most current mindset.
A note: We chose not to include festival releases and per this editors request, lists were due in by June 28th. Hence why certain films aren’t on the list and so forth.
Let us know in the comments what your favorite films are of the year so far!
Sofia Coppola has long been a favorite of ours around these parts and she’s at peak performance with her latest film, the remake The Beguiled. Starring Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst and Colin Farrell, the film is an ode to the artistry that’s become synonymous with her name. From the way she captures the movement of clothing to her gleeful depiction of women who’ve been cooped up in a mans world for far too long, The Beguiled is the antithesis to a summer blockbuster but just as instantly satisfying.
Our critic said: “The Beguiled is a film entrenched in Coppola’s aesthetic and yet marks a departure and maturity for the filmmaker, with shades of Terence Malick coloring her worldview. Beautifully acted and gorgeously filmed, The Beguiled is impossible to ignore.”
If you hadn’t been paying attention (and I mean really close attention) then Colossal starring Anne Hathaway might’ve easily slipped under your radar. It’s a bizarre film that in one breath feels as if it’s going to be a romantic comedy before it slips into something far more insidious about the nature of male ego and entitlement and then WHAM all of a sudden it’s a monster bash. Tonal changes aside (and that’s not a negative) the film is a poignant look at the casualties that come from alcoholism and how sometimes the greatest threat to your own happiness is yourself. Hathaway is superb and Jason Sudekis gives a tremendous, best of his carreer so far performance.
Our critic said: “Colossal succeeds because it manages to toss back this genre cocktail with ease, creating a picture that both feels familiar in essence but provides its audience with a film that is fresh.”
Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is how you do a sequel right and by keeping on director James Gunn for the follow up to the 2014 smash hit, Marvel and co., were able to come up with something just as infectious and infectiously weird as it’s predeccsor. Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Baby Groot are back this time with the welcome additions of Gamora’s blood thirsty sister Nebula and newcomer Mantis as they face down the best villain Marvel has had since Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in Kurt Russell’s Ego. Bigger and grander in visual gymnastics while also offering up a more intimate storyline, the film might not touch the original in terms of how fresh and new it felt but it does offer up a reprieve in the best sense of the world. When watching Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 it’s impossible not to be swept up by the bubble gum imagery, winsome performances and killer soundtrack and not be put at ease for two hours.
Our critic said: “Michael Rooker’s Yondu comes into his own here, and is great to watch. His father-centric storyline, while having no basis in the preceding film, makes up for a lot of the film’s heavy handedness. A battle scene he orchestrates in the third act is visually breathtaking and one of the films highlights.”
A cannibalistic coming of age story directed by a female director? Well yes please. A horror film with a message (aka the best kind), Raw has been one 2017’s greatest surprise so far. By creating an atmosphere that is stressful without being obvious and presenting body horror in a manner that isn’t strictly “gross out” horror, director Julia Ducournau managed to tell a story that doesn’t resemble anything else in its genre. It’s genuinely one of a kind which is something that cinema is always on the hunt for. Shocking, sickening and beautifully composed, Raw needs to be on everyone’s catch up list for the year.
Our critic said: “Julia Ducournau’s Raw is a deliciously fucked endurance test, one that rattles your insides and challenges you without mercy. A coming-of-age story that depicts and/or explores, among other things, cannibalism, puberty, liberation, sexual exploration, adulthood, sisterhood, terminal illness, lust, alcoholism, bulimia, bullying and possibly bestiality, it’s meant to provoke you, disturb you, intrigue you and deeply haunt you.”
John Wick was such a delightful surprise upon it’s release that most of us couldn’t wait until the second installment was released. Just as consumed by blood and gunfire madness as the first, John Wick Chapter 2 is a genre film so at the top of it’s form that it’s hard to imagine another action flick coming around and taking it’s place. Keanu Reeves thrives in the role and the kinetic filmmaking is impossible to tear your eyes from.
Our critic said: “Reeves is an absolute blast as the titular John Wick, fully embracing the cheesy one liners and satisfying executions his persona has become associated with. A nice addition is that Reeves is performing many of the stunts you see on-screen, further adding to the authenticity of the bad ass assassin that is Wick. With an assortment of bloody fun fight scenes that pay homage to earlier remarks made of Wick’s back story, such as finally seeing John execute some baddies with a pencil, makes this sequel pure fun as its finest.”
For anyone who has ever watch HBO’s Silicon Valley or any of his stand-up, we’ve known for a while just how talented comic Kumail Nanjiani is. We didn’t anticipate his break out film however to be one that debuted at Sundance 2017 and one that was based on his and his wife’s courtship. Disarmingly sweet and predictably clever, The Big Sick may end up being the sleeper hit of 2017 with a charming atmosphere and lasting atmosphere. Nanjiani along with Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are all excellent.
Our critic said: Kumail Nanjiani is speedily becoming one of the funniest comedians in Hollywood. He does great work in both Silicon Valley and his standup specials, where he pokes him at himself and his Pakistani upbringing. He brings his distinct humor in The Big Sickwhich he co-wrote with his wife, Emily V. Gordon.
Grim and nihilistic, Trey Edwards Shults It Comes at Night manages to repulse not just through gruesome imagery but also through the worst type of human nature. A survival story that has families turning against one another with a slow, creeping sense of doom lingering above every shot, the film isn’t an easy watch. Following his breakout film Krisha, Shults foray into the horror world is a feast for the eyes and as damning a portrait of humanity as any. Joel Edgerton is terrific as has become customary while the breakout might be Kelvin Harrison Jr. who plays his son, Travis, offering up one of the few characters depicted as being empathetic.
Our critic said: “Shults has crafted a film that meshes the trauma-fueled family dynamics of The Roadwith the geographically isolated delirium of The Shining. All of our characters are both terrifying and terrified, as their base instincts and bonds with each other drive their actions.”
Few directors inspire the instantanoes amount of joy as an Edgar Wright film can. Within the opening seconds of his latest film Baby Driver you know you’re in for a treat. Showcasing the director at the top of his game as a technician while keeping his signature kinetic lens, witty humor and refrences in place, Baby Driver comes at you as a visual adrenaline shot, refusing to relent before the credits have fully rolled. Merging comedy, drama, romance, heist films and musicals into one picture would be a more than daunting task for any director but Wright is up to the challenge and tackles it with ease. The supporting cast including Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey and Eiza González is tremendously cast while Ansel Elgort and Lily James make for a winsome romantic pairing.
Our critic said: The beauty of the film isn’t just in the physical pieces, but in how Wright uses them in a complex ballet of moving parts to tell the story. This includes the often comical interactions with characters that are themselves semi-anachronistic archetypes of films past. We have the Bonny and Clyde duo working with the mercurial, unhinged gangster and the mob boss in businessman skin. There’s even the misunderstood hero with a rough past falling for someone whose speed is the opposite of his own. The great unifying force that brings Baby Driver together goes beyond the way they interact with each other and includes how they interact with their surroundings.
We needed Wonder Woman this year. Sure, it would’ve been nice to see a female superhero lighten up the big screen prior to Patty Jenkins take on the Amazonian hero, but for the release to fall in 2017 where the voices of women have come to a voluminous roar seems like a small sense of justice. Add to that that it’s the best performing DCEU film as of today and well, that just makes all the sweeter. One of the best superhero films ever made, Wonder Woman is so excellent because it takes everything we’ve come to expect from a superhero film and expanded on it and, most significantly, presenting it through the female gaze. Poignant, riveting and beautifully composed, while there may be better films that come out this year, no moment will touch the utter emotional significance of Diana facing down a ring of bullets while stepping foot onto “No Man’s Land”.
Our critic said: “To be good is not to be boring, a concept that has baffled many a superhero film in the past. And yet, here we are with Patty Jenkins’s directed Wonder Woman and it’s a film without an inch of cynicism, that relies solely on the notions that hope and love can and will save the day, and that sometimes the winning ingredient to a man-made war is a woman’s touch.”
Jordan Peele has created something iconic with his first feature length film, Get Out. A horror/comedy/social commentary hybrid, his first film wasn’t lacking in big ideas and luckily, all of them excelled past the expectations we had for them. Unsettling in how eerily real the white suburbia is presented by making the villains individuals who blend into the background and touting a biting script by Peele and gripping and emotive leading performance by Daniel Kaluuya, it’s unique in how it takes conventional, Stepford Wives type scriptural motifs and instead presents it through the eyes of a young, black man in modern day America. What’s so shocking is that it doesn’t take the ultimate reveal to make the film as sinister as it is, but the social climate which sees black men being brutalized just for walking down the street, driving their car or coming home with candy. Peele takes that climate and puts it into the atmosphere of a horror film.
Our critic said: Jordan Peele’s Get Out is essentially Dear White People for sadists; it’s a therapeutic horror comedy with a shotgun barrel aimed at the racial tension that’s echoing through America.
With Hugh Jackman’s swan song as Wolverine/Logan, the X-Men universe perhaps has created it’s best film ever (opinions vary when it comes to X2). With Logan we are once again reunited with our titular clawed anti-hero who is looking the worse for wear in a universe set later than any X-Men timeline we’ve seen so far. With mutants on the brink of distinction, things are as dire as they’ve ever been and the film captures this with it’s barren wastelands, purposeful shots that depict how isolated Logan and Charles Xavier are and the moody and gruesome manner of the killings that take place. A major asset of course is Dafne Keen as Laura aka X-23 who embodies this walking, talking pint sized feral being with a poise and confidence that plenty of actors way beyond her years have yet to possess. She and Jackman share a palpable chemistry and it’s their odd couple shenanigans, the relentless tone of the film that doesn’t offer up bits of hope easily, and a script that plays with what we know of the character and the pains we’ve yet to explore that make Logan not just our favorite X-Men film, but our favorite of the year so far.
Our critic said: What makes for a good superhero, and what has always made for the most intriguing of them, is when the writers look past the cape and cowl and dig deep into the psyche of the person wearing them and the relationships they cherish. Logan does this, and if future superhero projects see the film and decide that it’s a model they’d like to try on for themselves, then fans could be in for something of a treat.