This will be the page where I keep tabs on all of the films that I see in 2017! I am excited to continue to journal my film-going experience as inspired by Patton Oswalt and his book Silver Screen Fiend. I will once again keep track by rating them out of 5 stars. For my Summer in Film 2015, and My Year In Film: 2016, go to the drop down menu!
Hidden Figures (4.5 Stars)
Hidden Figures (not Fences, a-hem) is an awesome movie. First and foremost this film is incredibly acted. Taraji P. Henson is, as usual, utterly phenomenal as Katherine Goble Johnson, the legendary mathematician for NASA. I hope she gets a nomination for her role. Similarly, Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer are also wonderful in their roles as Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn respectively. Monáe is showing herself to be a renaissance woman: an already accomplished musician, now appearing in two of the years biggest and buzziest Oscar contenders, Hidden Figures and Moonlight. Octavia Spencer has been one of the most reliable actresses in Hollywood and this role is no different. Put the three leads together with their excellent supporting cast and you have an incredibly well acted film. The story, while timely, sticks to the story in a way that lets the true story speak for itself. I am sure parts of it are dramatized for the sake of the film but it is clear that NASA would not have won the Space Race if not for these three women and the countless others that they led at the time. My only knock against the film was that there was nothing too risky about the direction, no shots that wowed me. At the same time, I felt that put the emphasis on the acting, which was phenomenal.
Back On Board (3 Stars)
As a former diver, everyone knows the story of Greg Louganis. Here he is billed “the Greatest Diver of All Time.” This is a fitting title for him despite my preference for Mark Lenzi, who was almost as accomplished at his peak. There is no denying Greg’s greatness. In this documentary, the viewer is taken through his storied career while Greg gives the backstory behind the scenes. Yes, he goes through the time he hit is head on the diving board here. Particularly moving was his discussions about being HIV+ in a time when it was extremely taboo and how Ron O’Brien, Louganis’ coach, smuggled his medication into the Olympics. The coach-athlete relationship here is very strong. The film also delves into some of Greg’s current personal drama around finances. It ends on a positive note, with Greg giving his 1984 Gold Medal to a moved Coach O’Brien as a thank you for his support throughout the years. A really great documentary.
Fences (4 Stars)
If you are looking for a film that is going to be fast paced and packed with developments left and right, this is not the film for you. This is an actor’s film, meaning that the movie rests solely on the shoulders of the stars of the film. Which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense: it was adapted from a stage play written by August Wilson. Wilson won a Pulitzer Prize for the play and it is well deserved. The writing, the character development, and overall story is rich and engaging. It translates well to film under the direction of Denzel Washington. Mr. Washington’s performance is a powerhouse that cuts through the film even when he is not on screen. It is utterly amazing to watch. On top of that performance, Viola Davis brings the house down with her performance. I won’t give any spoilers away but at a certain moment in the film Viola’s performance cuts through the film and you. It was moving and wonderful to see. My only negatives for this film were the running time. This film is long and I wish it was just a little more streamlined. With that being said, Denzel Washington’s direction and care in bringing this adaptation to screen is faithful which is why it is long. This is a great movie.
Jason Bourne (3 Stars)
To be brief: not quite reaching the heights of its predecessors (except the Bourne Legacy) this film is a great action packed ride. It continues the Matt Damon portion of the franchise well. I hope they bring both Jenner and Damon together or else Bourne Legacy will be so out of place. The story is not the strongest but works. The direction is okay and the newcomers to the franchise are welcomed. I am looking forward to more Bourne.
Moonlight (5 Stars)
This film was the type of film that made me stop and wait before I got up and left. I had that WOW moment. The two folks I saw this with did the same thing. This is straight up: my pick for the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor Oscars. The film is split into three to represent three portions of the main character, Shiron’s life as a child, teenager, and adult. Shiron is played by three different actors all of whom slay their role and are captivating on screen. Mahershala Ali is a dynamic presence and his character’s influence on Shiron is felt long after he leaves the screen. The story is socially relevant and director Barry Jenkins’s story choices and direction reflect that. One of the most important scenes in the film is shot in such an awesome way. Shiron is being bullied and the bully tricks his friend into beating him up. As the bully circles the school yard before everything happens, the camera stays with him and focuses on him. It was reminiscent of a shark circling his prey in the best possible way that what happens in the next few minutes of the film leaves you heartbroken and dizzy. The last third of the film is surprising and the movie leaves you wanting more to the story. It is in the ending that Jenkins shows restraint and while I wasn’t too high on how the film ended (it could have been a little more emotionally powerful with a simple gesture from one of the characters and you’ll know what I mean if you have seen it.) With that being said I understood the choice to end the film that way. This is a wonderful film!
Power Rangers (3 Stars)
This movie isn’t going to win any Oscars or break any records. Power Rangers was a fun, nostalgic, and well made film. Recently, my feelings towards films have been that when they don’t take the time to develop characters or tell the story in a meaningful way, I cannot connect to it. I really connected to what they did here. They pulled the team together right away and then let them form and storm on screen. I really believed in their team dynamic by the time they actually pulled it together to save the day. Elizabeth Banks stole the show for me. You could tell she was having a blast playing the villainous Rita Repulsa. The backstory between Rita and Zordon really rounded out the film. If you are a fan of the Power Rangers you are really going to dig this film. I hope they make a sequel!
Logan (4 Stars)
Not the best of the X-Men franchise (that would be the stellar Days of Future Past) but the second best. The Wolverine saga was the rare superhero franchise that got better with every film. Logan is another film where it takes its time telling the story and developing characters to new places. These are characters that we already know and love too which makes it all the more impressive. Sir Patrick Stewart steals the show with his performance as does Dafne Keen as the young X23. I really enjoyed this superhero movie. It is right up there with the greats.
Get Out (5 Stars)
Wow. Jordan Peele has crafted this film so intricately that there are layers upon layers of metaphors and themes to reflect on after viewing. The first time I saw this movie I noticed the obvious ones. The second time I watched it I noticed more. I was skeptical about it when I heard it was done by Jordan Peele, typically a comedian. What a narrow minded view of someone’s talents I had. I am not a horror fan but this film was incredibly tension filled. There is an air of mystery surrounding everything until it all becomes clear at the end. If Jordan Peele does not win any awards come award season the film industry will have seriously dropped the ball and in a final twist, made the message of the film all the more real and powerful. Watch this immediately.
Beauty & The Beast (2.5 Stars)
Not excellent. Not terrible. A Paint by numbers live action remake that features great special effects and a wonderful cast that was used well. If you loved the animated original you will love this. There really isn’t anything else to say.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (3.5 Stars)
To quote one of, if not the best, superhero films ever “When everyone is special, no one is.” Kudo points if you can catch the reference. What I mean is, this is another perfectly great, thrilling Marvel film. I am suffering from Marvel overload and superhero movie overload. They have become ubiquitous in our culture. I at least appreciate that the DCEU is embracing the different and weird and has the guts to kill their characters off (even if its short lived). I’d love to see some real consequences in a damn Marvel film. With that rant aside, I really did like Vol. 2. I liked that they uncovered more back story for the characters. I liked that the play on fatherhood and family. I liked this movie a lot. It was funny, it was touching, and it was more of the same. Thank god we love that formula though! I really don’t know what else to say.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (3 Stars)
I went back and forth about my rating but landed on 3 stars. I liked this movie because of how absurd it was. The effects are great. Like really great. It was entertaining. I liked King Arthur and thought Charlie Hunnam did a great job. I thought Jude Law made for a surprisingly sinister but low key villain. I still like Guy Ritchie’s frenetic direction. I didn’t feel connected to a lot of the characters. Some of the secondary characters were bland. The story is action packed. It is a good movie. A fun and entertaining moving. But don’t expect like high art or anything and you’ll enjoy it.