Thursday, September 7, 2017

Top Ten Films of the Year (So Far) - Part I

As the Fall season crashes upon us and the cinematic year begins to unveil its prized possessions leading up to the Academy Awards, I'm going to take a look back at the early-year and summer releases that stand firmly as my Top Ten Films of 2017 so far. Many have been released on DVD and are available for streaming, so I recommend taking a chance on any of these strong entries from 2017.

Honorable Mention: Alien: Covenant, Beauty and the BeastGemini and Like Me

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) continues its expansion with Peter Parker's (Tom Holland) own film. Spider-Man: Homecoming delves into the teenage life of a nerdy kid with super powers who wants nothing more than to join Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and The Avengers, as well as taking his high school crush to the homecoming dance. But when a former contractor (Michael Keaton) who's stumbled on hard economic times gets his hands on some powerful alien weapons, Spider-Man struggles to balance both his social and extracurricular lives. Sticking to the typical Marvel script with a barrage of jokes and intense action sequences, Homecoming stands as another strong inclusion to the MCU.

Still currently playing in select movie theaters in Taylor Sheridan's gripping new crime drama, Wind River. The Hell or High Water and Sicario scribe takes a seat in the director's chair for this grim tale of a local Game Tracker (Jeremy Renner) who helps assist an inexperienced FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) in the investigation of a brutal murder and rape of a young woman found on a Native American reservation. Wind River is short on mystery but heavy on dramatics and suspense. The film takes a little to get going but as Sheridan's work begins to hit its stride, there's no turning away from this hypnotic thrill ride.

While Marvel's enormous head-start has placed their cinematic universe light-years ahead of their rival, DC's less-than-impactful first few entries only added insult to injury. Until, however, Patty Jenkins got the ball rolling with her winning origins saga, Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot stars as the Amazon princess warrior Diana who aids a stranded pilot (Chris Pine) and ventures into the middle of the first World War in order to save the world from a dastardly German plot. Surprisingly humorous and exceptionally acted by both Gadot and Chris Pine, Wonder Woman deeply develops its lead character and single-handedly rejuvenates the DC film universe.

#7. War for the Planet of the Apes

In what's become an unexpected and formidable prequel trilogy, Matt Reeves delivers another stellar inclusion into the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise. This third endeavor follows Caesar (Andy Serkis) on a quest to confront a rogue Army Colonel (Woody Harrelson) dead set on eliminating the advanced ape species. War for the Planet of the Apes tackles deeper and more personal themes that make for a falsely titled film. But despite the movie's lack of action and full fledged battle sequences, Reeves paints an unpredictable and valiant portrait of family, survival and sacrifice. 

Much like the previous entry, Trey Edward Schults offers a wildly mis-marketed feature that satisfies on many unexpected levels with the indie hit It Comes at Night. Joel Edgerton takes center stage as a former history teacher whose only mission is to keep his family alive while a mysterious and fatal illness sweeps across the world. But when he discovers a trespasser (Christopher Abbott) on his property and their families decide to shack up together into order to combine valuable resources, tensions mount as these fathers must first and foremost protect their loved ones. Exploring elements of fear and paranoia, It Comes at Night stands as a wonderfully filmed and superbly acted psychological thriller. Trey Edward Schults' effort is short on scares and by no means a horror entry. But as long as you know what you're getting into, It Comes at Night serves as a psychologically haunting and brisk 90-minute ride.

*** Stay tuned for Part II which will look at the Top 5 Films of 2017 so far. ***