Friday, September 8, 2017

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

Yesterday I discussed the bottom half of my Top 10 Films of 2017 so far (Part I), and today I will continue on with the 5 best that I've seen this year. In fact, some of these titles may even find their way onto my end-of-the-year list when all is said and done. So here they are, the Top 5 films of 2017's early-year and summer releases.

As a lover of the original and an outspoken fanboy of director Danny Boyle, learning that T2 Trainspotting was the "secret screening" at this year's SXSW Film Festival was huge for me. Perhaps the most impressive quality surrounding Danny Boyle's long-awaited sequel is how well is plays as both a stand-alone film and how smoothly it carries over from its predecessor. This ensures that T2 can be enjoyed by any moviegoer. Ewan McGregor reprises his role as Renton, who returns to Edinburgh two decades after screwing over his closest friends and associates by running off with their money in an attempt to relocate and break free from his heroin addiction. But as Renton soon discovers, trying to correct all of his past wrongs isn't as easy as it's cracked up to be. Riotous laughs and a compelling story make T2 a worthwhile sequel, even 20 years later. 

While I thoroughly enjoyed Danny Boyle's Trainspotting sequel, it was sibling directors Eshom and Ian Nelms' Small Town Crime that stood out as the finest entry from this year's SXSW lineup. The great John Hawkes, a vastly under-appreciated talent in the industry, stars as a former cop who begins his own investigation after he drunkenly stumbles across a dead body. Yet, in doing so, he puts himself and all of his loved ones in grave danger. Small Town Crime delivers a Coen brothers-esque vibe with impressionable elements of dark humor, murder and exquisite performances. Octavia Spencer, Robert Forster, Anthony Anderson and Clifton Collins Jr. all shine in their supporting work, which completely round out this stellar crime comedy. Small Town Crime hasn't garnered an official release date yet, but it's a film to certainly keep in the back of your mind.

#3. Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan is without question one of Hollywood's most prolific contemporary filmmakers. With hits like Memento, The Prestige, Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy as just the beginnings of his storied filmography, Nolan clearly wanted to venture into new territory with his World War II action-drama, Dunkirk. Hans Zimmer's relentless score paves the way for non-stop intensity that demonstrates how everything must work together on the land, in the air and in the sea, in order to rescue countless stranded Allied soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk, France. Despite the film's lack of attention to character development, an insanely realistic depiction of war and all of its horrors make Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk an absolute must-see experience. If you haven't seen it on the big screen, hurry up and do it before the film exits theaters in the near future.

It feels like Judd Apatow has his hands in just about every cookie jar nowadays as both a filmmaker and producer. The latest effort bearing his trademark Apatow-stamp is Michael Showalter's humbling dramedy, The Big Sick. Silicon Valley's Kumail Nanjiani stars as an amateur comedian who falls head over heels for Emily (Zoe Kazan) despite his Pakistani family's plans for his arranged marriage. While Apatow's trademark has evolved into overly dramatizing a story, The Big Sick keeps a comedy-first approach that makes for a far more enjoyable movie experience. Don't get me wrong, the dramatics are effective, thanks to a less-is-more handling, but these elements blend together masterfully in one of the year's most notable efforts. The Big Sick is still playing in select theaters and it makes a fantastic choice for all types of audiences.

#1. Get Out

And here we have it, the best film so far in 2017 comes from debut director Jordan Peele. The former Key & Peele standout trades laughs for thrills in the clever early-year horror mystery, Get Out. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris Washington, an African American boyfriend who takes a trip to the rural upstate to meet his Caucasian girlfriend's (Allison Williams) parents for the first time. While visiting their impressively large estate he begins to notice that all the other African Americans he encounters are acting very strange, forcing Chris to determine whether all of this is just in his head, or if there's something more sinister at work. Get Out's rare creativity shines through in an unpredictable manner as it gently toes the line between horror and psychological thriller. The film is a remarkable debut for Jordan Peele, who quickly becomes a director worth watching in the future. 

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