How do you make a “Best of” movie list for a year including “The Mummy,” “Transformers: The Last Knight,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: We’ll Keep Making ‘Em Until Johnny Assumes Room Temperature”?
It’s not easy.
This year it’s even harder to come up with a “Best of” movie list. Still, Hollywood has delivered a few smart, engaging films in 2017’s first half that deserve your attention. We should get more of them soon. Next month alone we’ll see “Dunkirk,” the World War II drama directed by Christopher Nolan of “The Dark Knight” fame.
And the fall brings Oscar season, the time when serious, sober movies flood the marketplace. For now, let’s celebrate the very best of what’s been a lousy year for films (so far).
All that hype. And it lives up to (most of) it. Comic actor Jordan Peele makes a stunning directorial debut. His horror film follows a mixed-race couple meeting the white girlfriend’s parents. “Get Out” gently ribs liberal pieties, but it’s far more accomplished as a white-knuckle thriller.
Edgar Wright delivered the ultimate horror-comedy hybrid with 2004’s “Shaun of the Dead.” His career has been a mixed bag since then, and it’s easy to fear he’d go all “Scott Pilgrim” on audiences with “Baby Driver.” That 2010 film showed Wright at his most annoying.
Which makes “Baby Driver” a frisky return to form. This funny, romantic thriller fires on all the cylinders that count. A great cast (Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Ansel Elgort) makes it pop off the screen. And, yes, you’ll buy the groovy soundtrack sooner or later.
“I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore”
This Netflix original could have been a mess. Some might think it is. Look closer. This tale of a frustrated woman fighting back against cultural cruelty is boldly original and flat-out fun.
Melanie Lynskey of “Togetherness” fame is excellent as the fed-up heroine ready to take on whoever crosses her path next. Elijah Wood is her funny, and unexpected, sidekick.
The real Chuck Wepner was the Underdog’s Underdog, the scrappy fighter who gave his all against Muhammad Ali. His film biopic stands tall against the summer’s big movie schedule, too, in true Chuck fashion. Liev Schreiber is excellent (what else is new?) as the Bayonne Bleeder in a movie that spends precious little time inside the ring.
“Beauty and the Beast”
The live-action take on Disney’s now-classic animated hit crushed the box office earlier this year. And for good reason. It’s impeccably presented, features a sterling cast and doesn’t wreck the formula that made the source material so winning.
It’s not a great movie though, and it’s hard to share why. Perhaps the translation proved too safe, too predictable. It’s a wildly engaging tale good for young and old alike. That’s more than enough in 2017.
Move over, “Ghostbusters.” This is the movie women have been waiting to see. Oh, and men, too. The Gal Gadot blockbuster didn’t need any PC push to sell tickets. It’s doing so the old-fashioned way — telling a rip-roaring yarn. Gadot is so perfectly cast here you wonder if any other actress would dare take the part down the road.