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In Conclusion: The Movies of 2017 - by Rob Braithwaite

Watching 366 movies last year kind of broke me. I only watched 104 movies this year. Here are some highlights. [Law and Order noise]


OPERATION: DYNAMO

I don’t know how or why but there were three movies this year that featured the rescue from Dunkirk in some fashion, and they fit together so well that I suspect Kevin Feige orchestrated it all.

Darkest Hour

World War II is in its dawn when the unpopular English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is replaced by the not-as unpopular Winston Churchill. Churchill is almost immediately pressured to reach out to the Germans to ask for mercy. It is a concept so foreign to him that even his body rejects the notion of nothing short of victory in the face of the rising fascist force.

The movie has a few classic biopic trips when information and backstory need known. But there are stunning scenes and sequences. The makeup work on Gary Oldman is nothing but award winning, as is his performance.

The drama of Darkest Hour is political and personal. The rescue at Dunkirk is an element of the story, however it isn’t seen. Thankfully, there’s…

Dunkirk

I expected this to be a three hour movie in which the first hour was filled with clunky get-to-know-them-so-you-care setups. Nope. Just two hours of action and tension. It’s amazing. The dogfights especially.

Some didn’t like Dunkirk because there is too little context or they didn’t care enough about the people. I disagree. But, for context there’s Darkest Hour. For the personal touch, there’s…

Their Finest

England is very much the WWII mix now. Their troops are back on the front lines, and their citizens are adapting to routine air raids. Morale is low. Here come the movies to make everyone feel better!

The Ministry of Information decides to make a film about the heroic deed of two sisters who stole their father’s boat to rescue soldiers from the Dunkirk shore. Problem is, their boat never made it to Dunkirk. Catrin Cole, still seeing their heroism, fights to tell the sister’s story as it happened. And yet, the propaganda machine continues to distort the truth.

Maybe the most interesting thing about Their Finest is that as myth takes over the sister’s truth, the myth of the romantic comedy genre is exposed as propaganda itself.

Ignore the forgettable title. Ignore the terrible trailer. Ignore the awful poster. See this little gem.


THIS SEASON ON SUPERHERO SHOWDOWN

Franchise moviemaking has got me down more than ever. It all feels like TV programming now, especially superhero movies. I don't get event anticipation anymore. Still, because I do like them, I see them.

Never mind the comic book source, Logan is a great movie. I got a little misty at the end.

Wonder Woman proves DC can make a great superhero movie. After seeing Justice League, I’m convinced they can’t. I’m sure Wonder Woman succeeded because no one at the studio thought much about it (“Oh, let them have their Wondering Woman.”), and Patty Jenkins & company went largely unchecked.

I’m not going to shit on Justice League. The movie does a great job of that on its own. But I would like to laugh at some horrible and frustrating product placement in it.

Bruce Wayne has successfully recruited Barry Allen. They both get into Bruce’s expensive car. Bruce says the “because I’m rich” line from the trailer and then the movie cuts to his hands gripping the steering wheel. The fingers of his right hand stretch out to pull up on a small lever. The car starts up, and the movie cuts to his expensive car driving toward the camera for all to see which brand had this ingenious feat of engineering.

I wasn’t expecting anything to happen -- they weren’t in costume or in any danger -- but it seemed like something was about to happen. Turns out they were just going… Where were they going? Jesus! They weren't going anywhere!

Spider-Man: Homecoming is fun. I like Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 more than the first one. I’m in the minority opinion of Thor: Ragnarok. It is mostly pointless and too jokey, I say. It would have been an amazing surprise had no one known Hulk was in it.  


IN OTHER FRANCHISE NEWS

There are parts of The Last Jedi that I love. And there are parts of The Last Jedi that I ignore. If you’ve seen it once, you could miss the first 45-60 minutes forever and enjoy it even more.

War for the Planet of the Apes closes out the rebooted property. Easily one of the best series of the 21st century.

Transspotting 2 and Blade Runner 2049 prove a quality sequel can be made decades after the original. My fingers are crossed for Remo Williams: The Adventure Continues.

John Wick: Chapter 2 raises the stakes on the hitman world built in the first one. I couldn’t be looking forward to Chapter 3 more.

Alien: Covenant balances its philosophical and action elements better than Prometheus did. There’s a great middle sequence and final moment.


REST MY WEARY EYES

Enough blockbusters. Give me a movie set in a natural and practical environment where people interact with each other.

Lady Bird is a wonderful movie. I’m afraid it’s going to take away some attention from The Big Stick in the mind of people who give awards to things. Both are worth anyone’s time. The Big Sick does not let itself off the hook with an easy ending. Lady Bird will go down as one of the best director debuts, as will Jordan Peele’s debut, Get Out. He set the bar incredibly high for himself and his next movie.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri takes a brutal look at festering rage.

Marjorie Prime should probably be avoided if a loved one recently died or is suffering from dementia. Even without the recent experience of those things, this examination of memory and legacy is like a mule kick.

It Comes at Night and mother! both have trailers that misrepresent what really happens. I wouldn’t recommend mother! to many people, even though I do like it. It Comes at Night is an excellent story of how isolation can breed mistrust and paranoia.

The pace of Logan Lucky is unlike usual heist movies. It’s a little slower and not as flashy but no less engaging. The wealth of the community of characters reminds me of the comic Southern Bastards.

I’m a sucker for movies set in a single location. Ben Wheatley double downs on that idea with Free Fire by making a movie-length shoot out.


THE LESS YOU KNOW THE BETTER

Movie trailers don't respect you. You should pay them little mind. This year I tried not to watch trailers online. Very rarely has a trailer completely ruined a movie for me, but wouldn’t it be nice to see something in a movie you aren't expecting? If you trust me, watch these five movies without watching the trailers or reading more about them: 

Brigsby Bear. A 20-something guy is obsessed with a children's program. Co-written by and starring Kyle Mooney and directed by someone else from Saturday Night Live.

Better Watch Out. Christmas horror/comedy.

Colossal. A woman returns to her home town to get her life in order.

Good Time. Robert Pattinson received rave reviews in this crime drama.

The Girl with All the Gifts. Horror/thriller. I wish I could have seen it with that much information.


SOME OTHERS I LIKED A LOT

Split, Raw, Life, It, Murder of the Orient Express, The Disaster Artist, The Shape of Water.


THE OVERLAP

There are a few movies that open in select cities at the end of the year to be eligible for award season. They will receive a wider release in January. I, Tonya and Phantom Thread are the two I’m most interested in.

Here’s to movies in 2018!