It’s crazy to think that half of 2017 has gone by. It’s crazier to think that I’ve seen approximately 210 movies since January and 190 of those films have been in a theater. April was an exceptionally busy month with the Phoenix Film Festival and, as you guessed, I am the Alamo Drafthouse’s second favorite customer.
What’s even crazier is that a Netflix original film has made my Top 10 list. Yes, be shocked. Very shocked. Several titles don’t have a distributor yet and some will release later this summer.
Without further ado, here is my Top Ten of the first half of 2017.
10. Okja; directed by Bong Joon-ho, Netflix – A multi-national company coming to grips with a PR disaster is full of quirky characters and an off-beat story that is sure to please everyone. The heartfelt story misses some beats, but Bong’s strength is in his characters and for that reason it is recommended. Now streaming on Netflix and playing in NYC.
9. The Lovers; directed by Azazel Jacobs, A24 – The film debuted at Tribeca this past April to wide acclaim. Debra Winger and Tracy Letts play a dispassionate married couple on the verge of divorce. As they come to terms with their future lives apart, they find they have more in common than either realized. Funny and heartfelt, Jacobs’ story is a strong indictment on the state of marriage and families and is recommended. Available on VOD starting July 25th from Amazon.
8. Buster’s Mal Heart; directed by Sarah Adina Smith, Well Go USA – Sarah Adina Smith’s sophomore theatrical effort is set around the turn of the Millennium; this surreal mystery film features Rami Malek (USA’s ‘Mr. Robot’) in dual roles as Jonah and as Buster questions more than it answers. Buried deep within the questions, one is rewarded with a plethora of answers. Co-starring DJ Qualls, who made his mark in teen comedies of the early aughts, the local Alamo Drafthouse featured this film along with an insightful Q&A with the director. It is available now on Amazon VOD and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 18th. Seek out the Inversion for yourselves.
7. Baby Driver; directed by Edgar Wright, TriStar Pictures/Sony – Wright who is known for his quirky Cornetto Trilogy (The World’s End, Hot Fuzz, and Shaun of the Dead) brings us an homage to pulp 70’s cinema with his latest film, Baby Driver. Featuring an all-star cast with Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, Lily James, Eiza Gonzalez, this mixture of music and visual imagery is one of the most original films to hit screens this year. Now playing in theaters, I can’t recommend this film enough.
6. The Midnighters; directed by Julian Fort, The Midnighters – Making its appearance at this year’s Phoenix Film Festival, Fort took home that festivals’ Best Screenplay Award, and he deserved it. Featuring Leon Russom as an aged safe cracker, he now has to cope with life on the outside. Infused with the essence of Michael Mann, the film holds no punches as we see the hardened Victor stuck at a crossroads. Peppered with amazing supporting characters, this film is a gem on the festival circuit and it’s only a matter of time before it gets picked up for distribution.
5. The Big Sick; directed by Michael Showalter, FilmNation, Lionsgate/Amazon Studios – I am a sucker for romantic comedies and this true life story of Pakastani stand-up comedian Kuamail Nanjiani and his courtship of Emily is no exception. The story by Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon is heartfelt, intelligent, and witty and the supporting cast of Ray Romano, Holly Hunter, Adeel Akhtar and Anupam Kher round out this 21st century romantic story for the ages. It made its debut at Sundance this year where Amazon picked it up for a record $12 million and is co-distributing it with Lionsgate. It also won the Audience Award at this year’s SXSW. Now in a limited theatrical release it opens wide on July 14th.
4. War for the Planet of the Apes; directed by Matt Reeves, Twentieth Century Fox – For a franchise that will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 2018, Fox has managed to capitalize on an out of this world struggle between man and ape. In a trilogy that started with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, continued with Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014. Now, two years later, in War for the Planet of the Apes we see Caesar warring with the remaining band of humans while at the same time, he is fighting his own demons. Releasing on July 14th, audiences are in for a visual and sonic treat. Make sure to check this out on the biggest screen with the loudest sound. You won’t be disappointed.
3. Dave Made a Maze; directed by Bill Watterson, Gravitas Ventures – Making its appearance at this years’ Slamdance Film Festival, Watterson’s quirky adventure finds our hero has built a maze. The trouble is that he’s become trapped in his own device and his friends, who he warns not to come after him, do so. Part Goonies, part mad house and all fun, this film also became an after – hours highlight of the Phoenix Film Festival. The film was able to secure a distributors and I encourage everyone to run to theaters in August to catch this, if you dare.
2. The Lost City of Z; directed by James Gray, Plan B Entertainment, Amazon Studios/Bleecker Street – The second film in my top 10 to feature outstanding cinematography from Darius Khondji, Gray’s stunning story of Percey Fawcett’s adventures in to the Brazilian rainforests is an exercise in patience where the viewer is rewarded with the aforementioned cinematography and a cast that is second to none, featuring Charlie Hunnam (in his second release of 2017), Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Angus Macfayden, Ian McDiarmid and in a second cameo of 2017, Franco Nero. The film sat with Paramount for six years and was finally picked up by Amazon, which released it theatrically via Bleecker Street where it sadly underperformed. The film is currently available for sale through Amazon streaming and will be available on Blu-ray on July 11th. I cannot recommend this film enough.
1. Land of the Little People; directed by Yaniv Berman, Fresco Films – Berman’s first narrative film is very much in line with his previous short films: a story that revolves around four children who fight two military deserters for their territory where the violence is unrelenting, even up to the final frame. From what I understand, the film is an homage to Lord of the Flies, which I have not seen; I related it more to Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me. It serves as a punch in the gut, a wake-up call to the every-day struggles that other societies in the world face. This film has screened at multiple film festivals over the past year, including the Phoenix Film Festival where it won Best Picture and Director in the World Cinema category. I very much hope more people get to see this important film; I cannot recommend it enough.
We’d love to hear from you. What you have you seen and what has made your top list so far?