2017 has been a pretty good year so far. It was a bit scary coming into the year, but that is how it usually is coming into a new year. January is always packed with crap and 2017 was no different. We had new installments of Underworld and Resident Evil to get past and The Bye Bye Man, once thought to be a decent film from yours truly, turned out to be the giant turd that everyone else was telling me it was.
We then closed out January with Split and XxX: The Return of Xander Cage, two films that I have yet to see. I plan on getting around to it, but so many other films and blu-rays are calling my name all at the same time, it gets a little bit hard to get to them all.
Anyways, here is my top 8 of the 2017 so far.
8.) The Belko Experiment
This film flopped in theaters and was given a very quick and quiet blu-ray release. I think that the studio thought that they had gold because James Gunn's name was attached to the film, but they failed to see that audiences didn't want to see another Hunger Games clone so soon to the last film in that series. That is the only reason that I can think of as to why people didn't see this film.
I found the film to be very entertaining and violent and great. The film goes through the motions that one would expect from a film like this, but Gunn and director Greg McLean give us enough surprises that we keep on wanting to see where the film is going to go. I will say that the last ten minutes are a little bit lackluster, but that is because we have seen this ending before and are not all that surprised by it. The rest of the film is really entertaining and should be given a chance.
7.) A Dog's Purpose
I am a sucker for films about dogs. With all the bloodshed that I am usually drowning in, it is nice to be able to watch a film that makes me feel all warm inside. A Dog's Purpose does this very well. It tells the story of a soul that goes from one dog to another. As I was writing that I realized that I have just come up with a great premise for a horror film.
Anyways, the soul is going from dog to dog because the dog dies and is reincarnated in another dog. We see a few different stories with a different dog, but the same soul. One time the dog is a cop dog, the next it is a broken home dog. All of this is told through the eyes of the dog. In fact, I don't think that we get too much of the film from outsiders POV. The film is really well made and the type of film that one watches to get all of the feels, as they would say.
6.) Five Came Back
This is a Netflix doc about five Hollywood directors who went to World War II and captured many of the images that we associate with the war today. They also had to make propaganda films to make Americans either hate the Japanese (not that we needed a reason back then) or for black people to join up.
This doc is broken up into a few chapter so I guess it can be considered a self contained season, but for me it is all one thing. It is amazing what these directors did. You would not see Michael Bay or Zack Snyder going to war to capture it as it happens. This film shows that back in the day, it didn't who you were, people were willing to fight for their country and do what needs to be done to show what war is really like.
5.) John Wick Chapter 2
The first John Wick was a film that most people mocked because it told the story of a man getting revenge for the murder of his dog. The trailer made the film out to be a wannabe revenge film that would most likely be the joke film of the year. Spoiler Warning! It wasn't. John Wick was a beautifully made action film that had a lot of soul in it and made action scenes exciting again.
Chapter 2 upps the ante like any good sequel would and this time Wick is sent to Rome to kill someone, that goes bad, and he has to flee to New York City in order to make the wrong things right. The film gives us great action scene after great action scene and even has a shocker of an ending. The only fault that I have with the film is that they introduce characters and tell us that they are badasses, but then they really aren't. This happens on more than one occasion in the film and it brought the film down a bit for me. Outside of that, John Wick Chapter 2 should be the film that action directors turn to for inspiration, not the Bourne films.
4.) Justice League Dark
Last year, there was a big brouhaha over the rating that the animated version of Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. The film received an R rating and people couldn't figure out why. Everyone thought that the filmmakers were adding to the animated version and they couldn't stand that. It turns out that the brouhaha was over nothing. I think that when the team doing the film said that Warner Bros had given them the ok to make it an R rated feature, the response was exactly what they wanted and went ahead with it. When they live up to their promise on the rating, people lost their shit.
While all this was going on, Justice League Dark was being made. No one really paid attention to it because most of the animated Justice League films that had come before it were crap. Even when the film got an R rating, there wasn't anything made out of it.
I think that this film deserves the R rating more than The Killing Joke. This film is a lot darker and goes into some areas that animation usually doesn't go into. I also happen to think that it is a really good film. The one thing that I don't like about the film is that Batman has to be the lead again. I know that Batman is the moneymaker for DC, but he is turning into the Wolverine. We loved him at first, but when he started showing up in everything, we started to get annoyed. There are other members of the Justice League that can handle or do even better than Batman. Still, I think that this is one of the best DC animated films and stands up there with Batman: The Animated Series.
3.) The Void
With all of this "throwback" nonsense going for the last few years, The Void is one of the few films that feels like it was made in the 80's. It tells a story that John Carpenter would be at home telling and the style and music also fell very Carpenter-esque. The one thing that hurts the film a bit is the fact that I can't really tell you what happens in the film. This is the type of film that needs to be watched more than once to get everything that it is trying to tell you. That doesn't make the film bad. The film is a well made shocker that goes exactly where you think it is going then goes elsewhere, leading you down a long path towards the finish of the film. I like films like this. I don't need to be spoon fed everything. I think that most audiences can understand things when they are presented to them. The Void is a film that gives us a lot, makes us think about it, and then makes us come back for more.
Okja is kind of like King Kong, if King Kong was raped halfway through the film. Let me explain: an evil corporation run by Tilda Swinton artificially makes these "Super piglets" that will help feed the hungry. Twenty-six farmers, from around the world, are chosen to raise the piglet as they would any other animal on their farm. They are given ten years to do this, afterwards the piglet will be brought back to the corporations labs to runs tests and slaughter the animals.
Cut to ten years later. A little Korean girl names Mija has been friends with the "Super piglet", who she has named Okja, and they are inseparable. The evil corporation comes down and takes Okja away from Mija and she travels the world to get her friend back.
That is all I am going to tell you about the film. The film is a satire on our society as well as the ones who think that they are doing good by "liberating" animals. All of this is done under the watchful eye of director Bong Joon-ho, who has given us some amazing films, including the marvelous Snowpiercer. Joon-ho makes films that he wants to make and somehow gets the money to do this. I say somehow, not in the way of "Why does X director get money to make the shitty films he makes", but in the way of "This guy is able to make whatever he wants because he is able to get the money." Bong Joon-ho is a master at what he does and Okja is no different. He points his satire at just about everybody except for the innocent. Mija doesn't deserve his satire because she hasn't done anything to warrant it. The corporations, animals liberators, the sheeple are the ones that get the satire. Also, poor Okja gets it too, but that is because the innocent need to see what can happen to them.
Okja is a poignant story about how one girls' love for her best friend can save it and it alone. Now that I think about it, this film is really mean-spirited. Still one of the best films of the year, so far, but wow.
Logan gets the top spot because I think that it deserves it. Now, when I see all of the other wonders that 2017 has to offer, this might not be the case.
Logan is a film that was made by people who love the character and wanted to give him a big send off. The film is filled with many things that comic book will love, while keeping the story easy for non-fans. The story is that of the dying hero who has to make one last move before he can retire. He makes good on a promise he made with a woman to get a girl to the Canadian border so that she can be free.
The film has a lot parallels with Shane and other westerns. The film feels like a western while still keeping up with the mythology of Wolverine and Xavier. There is a touchy moment where Xavier gives this monologue about the best bed he ever slept in. It is one of the best moments in the film and it is nice to see that a film like this can take the time to stop and live in the moment, even if for a few minutes.
Logan is the best way to give Wolverine the send off that he deserves. The film knows what it is doing and even throws in curveballs to throw off the people who think that they know how a film is going to go. I love Logan and I am sure that you will too.
So there is my mid-year best of list. I have a feeling that this list will change as the year goes on, but I felt that it would be nice to take a look in the middle of the year, so that we can give some love to the films that will mostly be forgotten by years' end.