DAILY GRINDHOUSE’S BEST OF 2017 (SO FAR)

 

We’re more than halfway through the calendar year, and while like its predecessor, 2017 has proved to be incredibly fucking strange for humanity in general and America in particular, it’s been a strong year for movies — already! We’re not even at the end-of-year prestige stuff yet. Here are some choices from some of the Daily Grindhouse staffers of some major highlights from 2017 to date.

 

JON ABRAMS

RAW

This is the best new movie I saw in 2017. This is the one to beat for end-of the-year status in my mind, although who really cares about any of that? With movies all that truly counts is staying power, and RAW has got it. This movie has impact and style, it’s a movie you can FEEL, young stars Garance Marillier and Ella Rumpf are brave and bold, Jim Williams’ score is adventurous and unforgettable, and after putting all this together I’m ravenous to see what writer/director Julia Ducournau does next.

THE VOID

I’ve been following them since MANBORG and others have been following them for longer, but anyone would have to agree this is just such an acceleration of craft for the Astron-6 guys. Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie cooked up this thing that’s a quarter Clive Barker, half John Carpenter when he’s in Lovecraft mode, and a quarter more their own damn thing, and the murky mood of THE VOID is like sinking into a tar pit, unnerving and inevitable.

LOGAN

It’s just my opinion but I’d argue that the Bryan Singer X-MEN movies, once near the pinnacle of superhero-movie achievement because quite frankly there wasn’t a whole lot of competition in the early 2000s, have gotten measurably worse with each entry. I think there’s a lot of unearned solemnity in the way this franchise has been played — just because the movies vocally acknowledge the sociopolitical metaphor inherent in the source material and just because some world-class actors have been hired to say the dialogue doesn’t mean they’re all that deep. By the time I saw the above poster, I was fully prepared to scoff at LOGAN, the purported capstone in the saga.

I mean, SCHINDLER’S LIST? Really? It’s a fucking movie about Wolverine. Calm down. 

That said, LOGAN is redoubtable. I’ve always had faith in James Mangold and I did like his previous Wolverine movie, THE WOLVERINE, but LOGAN is an unquestionable upgrade in action craft. The punches look like they hurt, the hacks and slashes look like they really draw blood. But the real devastation comes from the performances by Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman. Stewart was always perfect casting for Professor X of course but I’ve gone back and forth on Jackman over the years — part of me will always wish they had the guts to cast a short ugly guy in the part, the other part appreciates that they at least came up with a guy who’s got a vague resemblance to Clint. This is the movie where the performance really and truly fits the role, but more than that, there’s something in the way this brusque and broken warrior is focused around a caretaking role, there’s something in the way that this man wracked with rapidly increasing physical pain has to tend to a frail and failing mentor, that was just so intensely personal to me that I don’t even want to write much more about it. I’ve never seen that relationship in a movie before, I don’t think, and it hit way close to home.

 

GET OUT

First of all that’s such a great title for a horror movie. It’s so obvious and fitting that of course no one ever used it before now. Love that. GET OUT has to be the most written-about movie of the year already, maybe even of the past several years — it’s so culturally potent that it turns everybody who sees it into a film theorist, and sends all of us who are already film theorists into hyperdrive. So much has been already said that I’d like to underline one aspect that isn’t as frequently mentioned, that being the lead performance of Daniel Kaluuya. He’s so good as an American that you’d never know he’s British, he’s so vulnerable at times in his ingeniously-devised final-girl portrayal that I completely forgot I’d seen him play a much tougher character in 2015’s SICARIO. Actors playing black heroes are so often called upon to project strength in an outsized way that it’s striking to start considering how unusual a character this is — this movie just plain wouldn’t work if you couldn’t feel scared for this guy. He’s believable as a romantic lead, believable as physically capable, believable as perceptive and resourceful, but never so much any of those things that you don’t worry he won’t make it out of this alive. It’s not always easy to play a “normal guy” — this perfectly-balanced job by Kaluuya really is an under-appreciated aspect of this excellent movie.

I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.

GREEN ROOM, written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, was my number-one movie of 2016. I just plain didn’t see any movie last year that affected me as viscerally or was remotely as relevant to the national mood as I perceived it. Saulnier’s frequent collaborator Macon Blair was a reliably excellent component of what made GREEN ROOM so terrific, but he was only there as an actor — with I don’t feel at home in this world anymore he makes his debut as writer/director, and it’s every bit as thrilling to watch as were his performances in MURDER PARTY, BLUE RUIN, and GREEN ROOM. What a talent. Most movies alternate between memorable scenes (ideally) and connective tissue — those scenes that get characters from point A to point B, or that further the plot, that get business done. If you really think about it, there are plenty of movies, even great ones, that have scenes that are necessarily workmanlike, moments that are far from as entertaining as the best bits. That’s not the case with I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. Every single scene in this movie is equally entertaining, as fraught with odd detail or memorable dialogue. I really have no idea how Macon Blair did it, but I’ll be watching this again to find out.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

The reason the JOHN WICK movies are so good is because Keanu Reeves brings almost three decades of acting experience in action movies to bear — not just from stuff you definitely remember like POINT BREAK or SPEED or THE MATRIX, but from stuff you might not like CHAIN REACTION or STREET KINGS or 47 RONIN. The directors of the JOHN WICK movies, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch on the first one and Stahelski flying solo on the second, are veteran stunt men who have worked with Reeves for years — they know what he can do and they know how to showcase it on screen. These two films are a triumph of stunt craft. The scripts by Derek Kolstad play with mythology in a fun and admirably uncomplicated way. I would argue that the JOHN WICK movies are extremely well-made — well-written, well-designed, well-directed, well-acted, well-edited — but the egolessness of it all is what impresses me most. These are team efforts. Everybody’s work makes everyone else’s work look good. The action itself is the star. In baseball terms these two movies are no-hitters, which in light of the movies’ subject matter is an ironic choice of terms.

KONG: SKULL ISLAND

I’m inclined to feel generous towards a movie that opens with an extended reference to HELL IN THE PACIFIC and which plays songs by Iggy & The Stooges in its Vietnam-era scenes. This movie is an entertainment machine; hard to complain about something with so many fun performances and so many aw-cool! moments, but it’s also true that it may lack the pathos and resonance of the original KING KONG, of the best bits of the Peter Jackson remake, and even the 1976 rendition (Jessica Lange counts for a lot). I’m not complaining, but I’m not quite head over heels either.

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

This is the KONG: SKULL ISLAND of Spider-Man movies. It’s thoroughly entertaining, thrillingly clever and creative, and just a blast to watch, and that’s a big deal, don’t get me wrong for a second, but still, it’s no SPIDER-MAN 2.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Caesar is one of the richest characters to come out of American franchise movies this century. He’s inspiring, frustrating, maddening, profound, relatable, unknowable. It’s interesting that I finished reading Don Winslow’s The Force the day before I finally got to see this movie, because they both kind of end the same way. But that’s already more than I need to say. You should read that book and you should see this movie. Don’t let anybody spoil anything for you.

EVIL BONG 666

The latest film in the EVIL BONG franchise sets the title character in competition with the title character from THE GINGERDEAD MAN, in an iconic match-up to rival the cinematic — naw, I’m just fucking around now. While I do admit I enjoyed meeting the spawn of Evil Bong and The Gingerdead Man (his name is The Gingerweed Man), this isn’t what I could call a good movie or even really a movie. Just put this here to make my list an even ten.

 

JASON COFFMAN

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

Insane action sequel that expands the scope of the crazy world introduced in the first film. The final sequence in the hall of mirrors is jaw-dropping!

GET OUT

Instant classic. I’m only about half-joking when I say this is the best American horror film since HALLOWEEN.

LOGAN

Superheroes get the JACKIE BROWN treatment. Brilliantly cast, thrilling, and heartbreaking by turns. DEADPOOL had a potty mouth, but this is a real “adult comic book” film.

IT COMES AT NIGHT

An appropriately heart-stopping follow-up to KRISHA that transplants that film’s gut-wrenching tension to a post-apocalyptic genre story.

BABY DRIVER

Clearly the movie Wright has been itching to make his entire career, a massively entertaining action car chase/musical propelled by an expertly curated soundtrack.

OKJA

Bong Joon Ho follows up SNOWPIERCER with its inverse: A broad satire punctuated with scenes of gruesome violence. Stick around after the credits for one of the best “stinger” sequences in ages.

 

Write-ins:

Win It All Movie Poster

WIN IT ALL

Joe Swanberg’s latest feature starring Jake Johnson is a warm, winning, loose comedy that doubles as a pretty great “Chicago movie.”

Image result for neighborhood food drive movie

NEIGHBORHOOD FOOD DRIVE

A group of astonishingly self-absorbed people try to engage in some obligatory civic service with tragic results. Hilariously, nightmarishly absurd satire played by a pitch-perfect cast.

Image result for MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND movie

MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND

I think I’m technically still embargoed on this. :/

Image result for THE ENDLESS movie

THE ENDLESS

Benson & Moorhead return to the world of their first feature, RESOLUTION, with an ambitious, mind-bending family drama.

 

 

ROB DEAN

WAR ON EVERYONE

John Michael McDonagh’s great, profane take on the buddy cop genre is a great transplant of his previous Irish works. Making a western mashed up with “partners on a big case,” he injects a lot of surprising depth into the anarchic tale of police officers that truly play by their own rules. Elevated by great performances from leads Michael Peña and Alexander Skarsgård and fueled by some great Glen Campbell songs, the film is not to be missed by fans of Shane Black or ’70s cop flicks.

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO

A compelling and sobering reminder of how far society still has to go, what makes I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO so powerful is that it proves how many issues we, as a people, still have to face and fix together. Samuel L. Jackson gives new life to James Baldwin’s words, and in so doing makes the past not just prologue, but eerily prescient for the current state of race relations in the United States.

John Wick 2 Movie Poster

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

Expanding on the world of assassins, gunsmiths, and all other manner of rogues in the first installment, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 is a great case of a sequel going bigger and being all the better for it. Reeves remains pitch perfect as the titular unstoppable force, while Ian McShane and Ruby Rose also turn in memorable performances that are equal parts iconic and cool. It’s a fun, blood-splattered ride down the rabbit hole through a haze of gun smoke that left me eagerly anticipating another adventure within this shadowy world.

Get Out Movie Poster

GET OUT

So much has been said about Jordan Peele’s incredible debut as a feature writer/director, including by Anya Novak and me, but that’s because it’s a throwback to those great horror social commentaries that were far more common in decades past. Peele has a deft touch for alternating between comedy and horror, and is able to expertly craft images that will haunt audiences long after the credits have rolled. A brilliant way to provide insight into an experience shared by too many but ignored by so many more, GET OUT is the type of film that people will be revisiting and analyzing for years to come.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

The good zombie movie is, like its central antagonist, surprisingly hard to kill. Every time it seems the market is saturated and there’s no more ways to tell the same story of the undead masses feeding on the unlucky survivors, something like TRAIN TO BUSAN, I AM HERO, or THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS comes along and reveals how many more layers there are available to skilled artists. Adapted expertly by Mike Carey from his own novel, the film is willing to go to dark places and ask tough questions about how to define humanity, and is even more willing to answer with some hard solutions of its own. While reminiscent of the video game THE LAST OF US, the film is still able to feel fresh, original, and surprising at every turn.

Raw Movie Poster

RAW

While unfortunately touted by too many for being “so gross” or “over the top” amid stories of audiences vomiting and fainting during the film, RAW isn’t the gross out gorefest that it was made out to be. Which is excellent, because instead it uses disturbing gore imagery pitch perfectly while telling an engaging story of a woman’s journey into hell populated by her own family’s demons. It’s a crazy ride, to be sure, but one that is oddly affecting thanks to lived in performances from all of the young cast.

COLOSSAL

Nacho Vigalondo’s drunken kaiju dramedy is especially great… for reasons that would completely ruin the third act. So, without giving anything away, it suffices to say that the writer/director has delivered a fun character study that also acts as a gigantic middle finger to toxic masculinity and “Nice Guy” syndrome, wrapped up with some great comedy and fun giant monster business.

WONDER WOMAN

It’s unfortunate that so much was riding on Patty Jenkins’ turn in the director’s chair for this big budget superhero blockbuster. The first female to direct one of the flying spandex (or leather, as the case may be) movies for a major studio, the debate over Hollywood’s inherently sexist system almost obscured whether or not the film was any good. Luckily, Jenkins exceeded all expectations and naysayers by delivering the best comic book movie of the year (so far). WONDER WOMAN has emotional elements tied to its action, actual character development, and even utilizes musical themes to create a more epic sense of scope and action. While the intervening years between WWI and BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE don’t exactly make sense, it just proves this is the foundation on which all future DCEU films need to be built, complete with comedy, heart, and compelling storylines.

Baby Driver Movie Poster

BABY DRIVER

Edgar Wright’s first film flying solo as a writer (without Simon Pegg or Michael Bacall) is a goddamned treasure of a movie. While I didn’t care for the final 5-10 minutes, the rest of it was so full of high-octane action, musicality, and clever humor that it’s easy to forgive him for not completely sticking the landing. BABY DRIVER can proudly sit next to VANISHING POINT and THE DRIVER, not to mention STREETS OF FIRE, for being a great excursion into a fable with heightened reality, populated by outsized personalities, and delivered with precision timing and execution in editing and cinematography.

THE BIG SICK
Michael Showalter’s film about the true life story of writer/star Kumail Nanjiani and writer/producer Emily Gordon (portrayed in the film by Zoe Kazan) is one of those rare romantic comedies that is sweet without being schmaltzy, deep without sermonizing, and relatable despite being a completely unique tale.
 
Films I haven’t seen that may have made the list:
  • OKJA
  • THE BAD BATCH
  • THE BELKO EXPERIMENT
  • WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

 

ROB DiLAURO

THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER
FREE FIRE
THE VOID
TWIN PEAKS (it’s a film)
LOGAN
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2
SPLIT

 

JOHNNY DONALDSON

SPLIT

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

GET OUT

LOGAN

RAW

PERSONAL SHOPPER

THE BELKO EXPERIMENT

COLOSSAL

FREE FIRE

ALIEN: COVENANT

47 METERS DOWN

BABY DRIVER

THE BEGUILED

Write-Ins:

MY FATHER DIE; WE ARE THE FLESH; THE LURE; KEDI

 

BRETT GALLMAN

SPLIT 

One of my favorite developments in recent years has been M. Night Shyamalan regaining his footing and finding his speed with pure schlock. SPLIT is doubly exciting because you can sense he’s recaptured his confidence, and its final reveal leaves little doubt that he’s back.

XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE  

I’m not sure if the xXx franchise turned into FAST & THE FURIOUS or vice versa, but, either way, I’m so glad we now have two opportunities to watch Vin Diesel and family wreck bad guys in increasingly ludicrous action movies.  In a perfect world, we’re about two movies away from FAST & THE FURIOUS: xXx.

 

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

I think I speak for all of us when I say I never hope to see the day where watching Keanu Reeves deliver headshots isn’t immensely satisfying.  More of this forever, please.

 

GET OUT

As part of its deserved praise, GET OUT has rightfully been hailed as a clever, perceptive horror film; however, don’t let that fool you—this is also one of the most raucous, infectious crowd-pleasers in years, complete with a climactic scene that, by all accounts, brought houses down all across the country.

 

LOGAN

It’s almost become a cliché (and one I’m probably guilty of myself) to pick out a comic book movie and insist this one is different from all the rest. LOGAN totally earns that designation, though, as it features a weighty sense of finality that constantly eludes this medium.  Comic books (and their film adaptations) are supposed to be perpetual motion machines, with each in the service of setting up the next.  This one resists that notion in resounding fashion, as Logan’s final outing is a vicious tale of redemption and sacrifice, one that carries the weight of nearly two decades.  In this case, there’s no more guns left in the valley, because Hugh Jackman and James Mangold emptied the entire clip to send off this beloved character.

THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER

THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER’s tricky narrative structure will gain it notoriety, but it’s quite possibly the most oppressively atmospheric horror film in ages.  Given how its story unfolds, it’s easy to assume writer/director Oz Perkins is out to trick you, yet the inevitable sense of dread suggests otherwise.  I think he wants you to know exactly where it’s going, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Utterly haunting.

ALIEN: COVENANT 

Somehow, Ridley Scott decided to turn ALIEN into a vehicle to explore complete misanthropy, and Fox signed off on it.  It’s a bit messy at times (especially whenever it’s trying to live up to franchise expectations), but this is one of the weirdest summer blockbusters to arrive in theaters in ages. Look for this one to become a cult classic in the coming years.

BABY DRIVER 

Few filmmakers have mastered the art of cinema as a conduit for pure kinetic, infectious energy quite like Edgar Wright, and BABY DRIVER is just effortlessly cool.  I can’t wait to pair it with Streets of Fire for a future double feature.

 

JOHN REENTS

GET OUT

WONDER WOMAN

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO

This documentary on James Baldwin uses archival footage to let Baldwin, one America’s most outspoken and articulate gay activists, to speak for himself. At a time when the LGBT community is slowly realizing that it can no longer ignore the prejudices within its own ranks, Baldwin’s voice is as necessary and relevant as ever.

 

 

 

MIKE McGRANAGHAN

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE

A legitimately great Batman story, told with LEGO building bricks. Bonus points for cramming so many hilarious Batman references into just over 90 minutes.

Logan Movie Poster

LOGAN 

A dark, meaningful, elegaic Wolverine story that pulls no punches. Hugh Jackman has never been better as the character.

THE CASE FOR CHRIST 

A faith-based film that doesn’t feel the need to beat you over the head with a sermon. This is a surprisingly smart (true) story about a man who changes his mind after studying the evidence. It also works as a story about a marriage in crisis. A lot of people have an aversion to watching faith-based films. I hope some of them will take a risk and check this one out. It’s not what you think it is.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 

I am Groot.

Wonder Woman Movie Poster

WONDER WOMAN 

DC stopped trying to mimic Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and simply focused on making a great Wonder Woman story. Hallelujah, it worked!

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE 

It has a character named “Professor Pee-Pee Diarrrheastein Poopypants.” Need I say any more?

It Comes at Night Movie Poster

IT COMES AT NIGHT 

I’m a sucker for moody, atmospheric horror movies. Too bad the studio sold it as a conventional fright flick.

47 METERS DOWN 

I’m not going to claim this is any great work of art, but doggone if it isn’t one fine piece of B-movie insanity. Sometimes you just want some cheap thrills, you know? This film has cheap thrills in spades.

Baby Driver Movie Poster

BABY DRIVER 

Hip, cool, and fun. Stylishly made and entertaining from start to finish. The performances are impeccable.

Okja Movie Poster

OKJA 

Sometimes I walk away from a movie saying, “What the hell did I just see?” OKJA gave me that feeling. Did I mention that I looooooove that feeling?

 

JOVY SKOL

GET OUT

It’s movies like these that remind everyone that a fresh voice is always embraced in the horror community. A great script can be told with any budget, along with a universal story that feels awfully relevant can be one of the scariest experiences. The movie has made a shit ton of money, and people are still talking about it, which is more than anything people can say about some of the more recent summer releases.

 

LOGAN

I’m a big fan of the X-MEN franchise, but have never considered Wolverine one of my favorite mutants. Seeing the trailers and artwork for his previous spinoffs always came off more as Hugh Jackman vehicles to create another money making series. I actually have not seen them and, word on the street is, I haven’t missed anything. I don’t know if it has anything to do with our current political climate, but hopelessness is the new hot commodity when it comes to blockbusters. In LOGAN, Jackman gets to focus more on character and relationship building than showing off the claws and sex appeal. It brings a satisfying conclusion on a long-running character and helps support the fact that we want more R-rated big budget movies.

BEAUTY & THE BEAST 

I was so skeptical about this, but Emma Watson can really do no wrong. She turns a classic Disney princess into a modern feminist hero who reminds us that she doesn’t need a prince, but the prince needs her. Showing off her hidden musical talent, Watson brings to life Belle in a magical live action experience that gave me the biggest smile in the theater.

THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER

Haters of the slow-burn subgenre will hate this gem, but for those with patience will be rewarded when the devil comes to school and possesses your TV screen. An overall mellow experience, two girls left behind at school know that some kind of presence is hidden within these walls and not everyone is who they seem to be. Oz Perkins delivers a promising start to a hopefully long running career behind the camera in the horror genre, as I hadn’t been this creeped out in quite awhile.

ALIEN: COVENANT 

People hated PROMETHEUS because it wasn’t ALIEN. People hated this because it wasn’t PROMETHEUS. I love it because it’s all of them. Each film in this franchise feels like its own comic-book spinoff, delivering a different experience each time and that’s why I keep coming back. I never know what to expect and here I got the horror, the action, and the philosophy that I love so much from all the films, along with a female lead who no one questions when she grabs the biggest weapon to kill the Xenomorph towards the end. I loved every minute of COVENANT and plan on watching several more times.

WONDER WOMAN 

I’ve never been too familiar with the Wonder Woman character, and that’s probably thanks to the lack of her onscreen presence during my 31 years of living. The wait has been well worth it as she’s made more than a splash at the box office and found her way into the hearts of fans and critics everywhere. Patty Jenkins has finally got the opportunity to follow up her Oscar-winning masterpiece MONSTER with another landmark film that’s responsible for several think pieces popping up all over the internet. Diana Prince is the superhero we want to pay good money to see and root for. Not since Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman has a comic book hero created such an influence on pop culture and tell a story that we actually give a shit about.

 

 

NATHAN SMITH

SPLIT

For years, I had to see M. Night Shyamalan get dragged through the mud by film goers and critics, and suffer a run of bad movies starting with THE VILLAGE and on through THE HAPPENING, LADY IN THE WATER, and AFTER EARTH. Because I’m one to defend filmmakers who are unjustly maligned, I hoped with every film he released that he’d return to form. His collaboration with Blumhouse has done wonders. The renaissance started back with his found-footage chiller, THE VISIT, and now on to his gripping thriller, SPLIT. He deftly mixes great performances from James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy and marries it to a script that balances a thrilling narrative in several claustrophobic locations, and welds it to the past with tragic character development. I cannot wait to see what Shyamalan does next and seeing people froth at the mouth for his next entry truly makes me happy.

RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER 

Initially, I had a lot of problems with the RESIDENT EVIL film franchise, namely taking a horror (emphasis there) action game and dropping the latter to highlight the former. However,  the films became something of their own beast and by the time the final entry released, I was fully on board for whatever Paul W.S Anderson was ready to unleash. This last entry (until sometime later, don’t you know) wrapped up the myriad story lines and mysteries and did it in an emotionally resonant way that even managed to continue the story after the film ends. Despite the fact that the film is edited with a Ginsu (characters die onscreen and there’s not a single idea of who they are, where their relation is to one another – the film is also too dark), it moves nicely and has enough action to keep you engaged. The barrage of action setpieces and gore is worth the price of admission alone. One has to believe this is because Anderson (and Milla Jovovich deserves notice for creating and living in this character all these years) has lived with the characters for so long, that he knows how he wanted this to end and he did it on his own terms.

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE 

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE was such a fun, light-hearted meta romp that came in for a studio that needed that kind of brevity in a year where all its films were darker than dark. The film works aces for kids and adults alike, and dissolves the toxic negativity that a) DC can’t do a funny superhero film, that b) spinoffs of hit films can’t be excellent, and c) doing a film about Legos wasn’t both a cynical cash-grab and a one-trick pony. It’s one of three films this year that provided me unheralded joy.

 

GET OUT 

When I found out that Jordan Peele was a horror fan, and that he would be collaborating with Blumhouse – it was a match made in heaven. Even further than that, he would be doing a social commentary horror-thriller. That’s fantastic, as my favorite film of all time is DAWN OF THE DEAD, a film that traffic in social commentary satire. It also holds up on repeat views as Peele drops recurring motifs and subtle bits of dialogue that mask as superb foreshadowing. Sadly, it’s a film that will remain culturally relevant as it’s commentary is about the most insidious, disgusting thing crippling our nation then and now – racism.

 

LOGAN 

James Mangold’s final poetic ode to Canada’s greatest superhero will go down as one of the best comic book films ever made. It’s a meditation on letting our heroes go, and realizing that after all their bombast and glory, they will age, give up and die and so shall we. This confrontation with mortality is still a fast-paced actioner with great acting and tightly choreographed fight scenes. It’s a haunting, beautifully shot film filled with profanity, gore, emotional sweetness and loads of humor. The story tugs at your heart, as simple as it truly is, just a road movie, but one with guts and risk at its core. It’s also worth mentioning that Hugh Jackman gives a career best performance here.

LIFE 

I talked about why I think LIFE is a fantastic film, when I reviewed it, but if you need a refresher – it’s a nasty, mean spirited sci-fi horror film that had some cringe inducing deaths,  and an ending that’s so refreshingly unhappy in a land of films that need happy endings for their films. It’s closer to a ’90s film like DEEP RISING or EVENT HORIZON than PASSENGERS or any number of sci-fi lite films that came out in 2017. It felt closer to an ALIEN film than ALIEN: COVENANT did. I just wish it found a bigger audience.

 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 

I felt such joy while watching this film, whether it was from the characters trading loving barbs with each other, the soundtrack coming to life and dancing through you, the emotionally resonant storyline or the visuals popping forth from the screen. The Guardians have their own world, and simply put, it only belongs to the mind of James Gunn, and one wishes they would stay off in their own galaxy and do their own damn thing. Cause they do it so well.

 

ALIEN: COVENANT 

I’ve seen the first four films in the ALIEN franchise, numerous times so it would seem like Prometheus would be a natural progression to me continuing on through what is Ridley Scott’s epic space sci-fi-horror poem, and yet, I didn’t see it. Honestly, it didn’t seem to interest me all that much. However, the trailers for COVENANT looked to be a return to form for what I like from the ALIEN franchise – horror wrapped up in a sci-fi sandwich. And yes, I did get that from COVENANT – a fun horror film with more novelistic tones than the earlier films offered. There’s some fun character stuff throughout, a subdued and therefore aces performance by Michael Fassbender and Danny McBride (if this is who we’re getting for HALLOWEEN 2018, I’m shivering with anticipation) and some nasty kills and cool CGI/practical work for the Xenomorphs. Though the ending was telegraphed, it still gave me chills with HOW it was executed. I liked COVENANT, it was serviceable and it moved like a freight train, I just wish there was more horror. One knows that Ridley Scott is moreover fascinated by the grander tones of the film. It doesn’t make it bad per se, but I just want a straightforward thing some times.

 

IT COMES AT NIGHT 

At times, this film is nerve-shredding. Not overly scary, but perfectly atmospheric and the night scenes are shot better than any horror movie has in quite a while (maybe The Witch comes as close), and the acting and writing are stellar. This film almost comes close to perfection for me. I wish that it would’ve decided on whose perspective we were seeing the film from, Joel Edgerton’s character is engaging and seeing the film through his eyes makes the viewer understand the desperation. However, seeing as how we’re with his son (Kelvin Harrison, Jr putting in a tight performance), it could allow for more mystery, especially as we never see the menace that’s besieging this small family and most scenes start with him and are from his perspective. I also like that they don’t allude to what the mystery is, because you just need the strife to enhance the horror. It’s also a perfect little stage play and would fit alongside William Friedkin’s BUG as a horror character piece.

Baby Driver Movie Poster

BABY DRIVER 

I love Edgar Wright’s movies, as you know what you’re going to get: fast editing, faster jokes and callbacks throughout all with a reliable stable of actors and a soundtrack that grooves along nicely. He doesn’t make genre movies, he makes movies within genres, constantly morphing and moving until it becomes something more than its simple synopsis could offer. BABY DRIVER is no different. It’s a fast-paced, foot tapping adventure that still has the frentic direction that we’ve come to love, but also manages to homage classic films from Walter Hill and William Friedkin, but also pay lip service to musical greats like Paul Williams (I cheered when I saw him on screen). The violence plays like tap-dancing punctuation on the beats and rhythms of the dialogue. It’s a great movie, one that’s a little divisive amongst critics and fandom. The last few Wright films have been, of course. But all good films are divisive in both good and bad means. People will talk forever about a film they loved and hated, they certainly wouldn’t argue the merit of a well-made dish however.

 

 

 

Jon Abrams

Editor-In-Chief at Daily Grindhouse
Jon Abrams is a New York-based writer, cartoonist, and committed cinemaniac whose complete work and credits can be found at his site, Demon’s Resume. You can contact him on Twitter as @JonZilla___.
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