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Mike Lee’s Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2017
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eelyajekiM   |  @   |  
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Movies of 2017 top ten header

To say that 2017 was an incredible year for films would be a vast understatement. The year was full of extraordinary films ranging from the typical blockbuster tentpoles like Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Wonder Woman to the indie darlings like The Big Sick and Lady Bird. And the best thing about it, a lot of these movies come from first-time directors, women, and veterans like Jordan Peele, Patty Jenkins, Greta Gerwig, and Rian Johnson. It’s not easy to see all of the films that are released within the one calendar year, but I make sure I damn well try to see as much as I can, and 2017 was no different. I went out to see over 100 films, and to narrow it down to 10 best within the field of exceptional titles that were released was hard. While best is subjective, I tried to narrow it down to the 10 films that meant the most to me that I enjoyed thoroughly.

So, you’ll find the 10 of my favorite movies of 2017 that I could not stop thinking about, along with a few honorable mentions. Check them all out here below.

Before we get into my Top 10, I’d like to give my thoughts on some very honorable mentions.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Netflix's OKJA

Okja

Bong Joon-ho‘s action and adventure film satirizes corporations and their false goodwill to be eco-friendly and transparent. Though it may be dysfunctional in tone, the beating heart of Okja comes through the young An Seo Hyun, who will go through great lengths to rescue her beloved Okja, a superpig created by Mirando Corporation looking to profit by harvesting their meats. The film goes from kidnapping to heist to rescue mission, all the while reminding us that it is also a satire. So it can be hard to keep up with all the shifts, but when Okja has fun, it is a joy to watch.

Thor: Ragnarok Thunder

Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is a proper Thor sequel that embraces its humorous side by finally recognizing its fantastical source material. By getting rid of those annoying Infinity Stone MacGuffins, we can finally get a Thor movie that is focused and, most importantly, a lot of fun. And a lot of that is thanks to director Taika Watiti, who took the franchise in its new direction. While it has those bombastic moments, they are all well earned, and very fun to look at. It feels like a true comic book movie come to life and a film that could stand on its own, without any of those connective Marvel universe tissues to weigh it down. With great performances from Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, and scene-stealing performances by Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldblum, and Cate Blanchett, this is a Thor film everyone has been waiting to see.

Karin Konoval, left, and Amiah Miller in Twentieth Century Fox's "War for the Planet of the Apes."

War For The Planet Of The Apes

War For The Planet Of The Apes is a somber end for a franchise that has remained consistent since its reboot back in 2011. Andy Serkis has carried these Apes films three times, and each time there has been an argument made for giving him a nomination for Best Actor. What started out as a generic, yet fun, summer blockbuster, turned out to be an emotionally powerful and poignant trilogy thanks to a narrative well crafted by director Matt Reeves, and a score that will surely resonate thanks to Michael Giacchino. War For The Planet Of The Apes is a rapturous finale and the perfect send-off for the great Caesar, and its ending leaves a lot of room for a potential sequel. But the bar is high, and whoever takes up that responsibility will have to exceed those high expectations.

Movies of 2017 Logan Wolverine movie

Logan

Logan is Wolverine’s swan song film by way of the western genre seems to be fitting for Hugh Jackman. It’s not a traditional Wolverine or X-Men film, by any means, but a profoundly personal one that takes a deep look at the title character’s history within the franchise and his search for redemption. Director James Mangold redefines the superhero genre once more by doing away with the generic mega-explosive climax and builds to something more meaningful. There’s no build up, no time travel to fix the story or keep the character alive. Mangold’s film is one of those rare efforts that prove superhero films have Academy Award potential. And a lot of that comes from Patrick Stewart, who plays an aged Professor X who still has a lot to teach to Logan, and the young Dafne Keen, whose character lays out the path to what Logan has been seeking all his life.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming Trailer #3

Spider-Man: Homecoming finally comes home to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the title character is back in style. While there was a multitude of writers on board, the film never loses its focus and remembers the heart of Spider-Man is an inexperienced hero who still has a lot to learn until he can become an Avenger. Tom Holland returns to reprise everyone’s favorite webslinger. Channeling his youth and charm, we get to see a Spider-Man in his truest form. Backed by a fantastic and diverse supporting cast, and the scene-stealing Jacob Batalon, Spider-Man: Homecoming is also one of MCU’s greatest reflections on today’s youth. In the end, it’s another fun installment of the MCU that doesn’t have to worry about any of those annoying MacGuffins. So we get a film that is much more focused and concerned about its title character rather than building up to a hint at the inevitable Avengers ensemble.

Molly's Game

Molly’s Game

Aaron Sorkin‘s directorial debut isn’t exactly perfect, but it is damn near close to it thanks in part to the fast-paced dialogue and powerful performances from Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba. Molly’s Game, based on the true-life story of Molly Bloom who went from potential Olympic downhill skier to the most powerful woman running underground casino games, moves at such a rapid-fire pace, it’s too easy to miss a juicy line. It’s too good a story not to be told on any size screen. The film moves fast and will leave you in the dust if you can’t keep up, but it’s almost as if that doesn’t really matter because you’ll be on the edge of your seat and not know it. While it may feel a lot like the film is playing by the numbers, Sorkin’s storytelling style and those aforementioned performances overshadow that minor flaw.

Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049

A painfully slow-burning yet hypnotic futuristic noir from the great Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049 proves that there is still plenty of world-building despite the near 20-year-plus gap between the film and its predecessor. And while everything still looks as bleak the original film, there are plenty of engaging performances from Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford to keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end, even if the sequel can be a bit numbing. Still, the cinematography is out of this world and the score composed by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is hypnotic. If there is a chance for you to watch Blade Runner 2049 in the theater, I suggest you take it, because this is one of those films that deserves to be seen on the big screen.

I, Tonya

I, Tonya

During the 1994 Winter Olympics, figure skater Tonya Harding found herself embroiled in a controversy that shook the games to its core. But Craig Gillespie‘s film, written by Steven Rogers, is so much more than a film about the attack. At the center of I, Tonya is a dark and tragic comedy that shines a light on the dangers of athletic ambition and overbearing parents who are trying to use their child as a means to achieve the goals that they could never do on their own. Backed by terrific performances by Margot Robbie, who plays Tonya Harding, and Allison Janney, who plays Harding’s mother, I, Tonya will leave you with an odd sensation of laughter despite the dark story that leads up to the inevitable demise. If anything, it may make you sympathize with Harding and what she’s been through. But at the same time, it doesn’t excuse her actions. In any case, it is an absolute must-see.

Now without further ado, here are my top ten films of 2017.

TOP 10

Wonder Woman Header Image

10 – Wonder Woman

There are many issues with the DCEU. With the tonal inconsistencies, a lack of plot, and uninteresting characters, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad represent the worst that the DCEU has to offer. All of them are nothing more than a loud mess. But Wonder Woman represents the light and the hope that the shared universe has and could become. Gal Gadot returns as the title character, bringing plenty of charm and lightheartedness, but also courage and optimism. That goes for Chris Pine as well, who plays the dashing WWI air pilot, Steve Trevor, who acts as Wonder Woman’s guide. Director Patty Jenkins‘ film may run out of gas by the third act, but the effort proves that there is a genuine interest in seeing a female superhero-led film and that optimism and hope can be the driving force to bring out the light in the world rather than take her through the dark and cynical that clouds over the DCEU.

Kelly Marie Tran is Rose and John Boyega is Finn in THE LAST JEDI.

9 – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

This year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi is one of the most entertaining Star Wars films that expands the mythology is also the most polarizing. Director Rian Johnson added a few new twists to the fan-favorite franchise, some of which may have rubbed fans the wrong way. But with each new story comes an expansion of the mythology, allowing the world to grow even larger. The latest installment of the franchise feels like a Star Wars film and something else entirely at the same time. Not only is Johnson continuing where J.J. Abrams left off – quite literally – he also plants the seeds for the world of Star Wars to grow beyond what we already know. Though it may be a return to form for a lot of the returning cast and memorable characters, it’s the female cast that really brings it in this film. Kelly Marie Tran is that spritely mechanic who goes from someone who is in the background to courageous hero; Laura Dern leads with grace as Vice Admiral Holdo; the late Carrie Fisher hands in a one-of-a-kind performance rarely seen in a Star Wars film. Though purists may not be a fan of the film now, I have a feeling that may change in the next few years, and they will be talking about how The Last Jedi will have revolutionized the way we see Star Wars.

The Big Sick

8 – The Big Sick

If there is one romantic comedy that is as brutally honest as it is funny, it is The Big Sick. Written by actor-comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his real-life wife Emily V. Gordon, this romantic comedy’s themes of bridging the cultural gap and pursuing one’s dreams is very timely and should resonate with its audience. And it’s because the film explores those themes that prove the romantic-comedy genre isn’t as cookie cutter as it once was. In fact, there is plenty to explore in the genre. Nanjiani didn’t have to do this film, but his experiences in his struggles to find a worth-while relationship allows the story to connect to a wider audience on a deeper level. Holly Hunter also shines as a protective mother to her ill daughter (Zoe Kazan), who sees Kumail as a person who walked out on her child. These themes of crossing the cultural gap should resonate with all audiences, especially now since there are more multiracial couples. If anything, The Big Sick is a pure joy to watch, as it juggles romance, humor, and drama with the greatest of ease.

It Pennywise 2017

7 – IT

IT, based on the Stephen King novel, may have its ups and downs – more the former than the latter – but the strength of the film lies within the young cast that makes up the Losers Club. Finn Wolfhard, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Sophia Lillis give standout performances and practically outshine the terrifying performance given by Bill Skarsgård, who plays the sewer-scuttling clown Pennywise. Each kid has their own fears and struggles that they must overcome, and they will help each other in their own way, which makes the chemistry between them more authentic. This new version of IT feels like it will be a timeless classic and not just another generic horror flick that will be forgotten. With a fine mix of terror and gore, IT finds that delicate balance in heart and humor, but never forgets that it is, first and foremost, a horror film. Not only does director Andy Muschietti shake audiences to their core, he proves that there is plenty of world-building left in this small town, that has been vexed by his creepy clown, and there are more frights that await interested fans who are eagerly waiting for the sequel.

6 – Baby Driver

A sleek and cool rocking good time at the theater. Edgar Wright takes the action-genre to an all-new exhilarating direction by using grounded action sequences and syncing it up with some killer music. And when you look under the hood, there is some terrific storytelling that is the beating heart of the engine. Baby Driver features an all-star cast that is comprised of Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, and Jamie Foxx, and led by the Ansel Elgort‘s quiet performance. Lily James adds even more fun with her charming performance. Weave all that in with music from Martha and the Vandellas, Queen, Beck, Carla Thomas, Sam and Dave, and more, and it’s a well-oiled machine. Baby Driver moves with style and grace and maintains its cool factor throughout the entire run. The joy of it all is the film’s age. You can watch it over and over again without it feeling old or tired. Instead, there is something new to discover with each and every new viewing.

Pixar's Coco

5 – Coco

Pixar’s latest film is a celebration of culture, music, and family. One that sends a positive message that should resonate with audiences for years to come, and lets its characters know that they have nothing to fear and that they should be proud of their heritage. Though the plot may be a bit thin, its twist is very heartbreaking. There are plenty of tearjerking moments, but we should come to expect that from a Pixar film. You can also expect it to be funny and warm. There’s never an agenda or propaganda with these films, but with the current political climate, it is easy to see why Coco may provide the counterpoint to the hate that is currently being spewed out. Lee Unkrich‘s film shows that every culture is special and all honor the families in different ways. And even though they are different, they all honor family. With its beautiful colors and easily digestible story, Coco is not only one of Pixar’s best films, it is also one of the top ten films of the year.

Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks In The Post

4 – The Post

Steven Speilberg‘s The Post is arguably one of the most important films of 2017, as it deals with a journalist’s duty to bring the truth to the people, and how the most powerful man in the world would stop at nothing to censor one of the United States’ most sacred institutions. This based on true life film shines a light on The Washington Post’s race to report and publish on the truth that President Nixon allowing the U.S.’s war in Vietnam to continue, despite the mounting casualties and evidence that they were going to lose in the end. But underneath that, there was also another battle at home, where the CEO of The Washington Post, Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), the most powerful woman in publishing, was being undermined by stockholders, and how she gathered the courage to do what was right by ignoring them, despite their strongest objections. So the film mirrors what is going on today, and should be a strong reminder that the government doesn’t get to dictate what should and should not be reported on.

Lady Bird

3 – Lady Bird

A smart coming of age film that encapsulates what it means to transition from adolescence to adulthood. In Greta Gerwig‘s directorial debut, Saoirse Ronan plays the title character who is a high school student struggling to find out who she really is. Despite her rebellious nature, Ronan discovers that she has a lot more in common with the strong-willed mother (Laurie Metcalf) than she would like to admit. So while Lady Bird doesn’t exactly fit the bill of a big loud explosive blockbuster, it does have a lot to say about the relationships that affect us and shape us to become who we are. It’s not exactly a special kind of coming of age film, but it is one that is brutally honest. Gerwig’s film is deeply personal as it mirrors her own life and small-town upbringing. But in its honesty, it also casts a reflection on those who may have shared similar experiences to growing up during the early 2000s and how finding one’s self is more of a journey than a destination.

The Shape of Water header

2 – The Shape Of Water

Guillermo del Toro‘s The Shape Of Water is beautifully poetic and moves with fluidity just like its elemental title. Co-written by Vanessa Taylor, this film is an homage to vintage cinema, monster movies, and romance. But underneath the surface, there is a film that is so much more than what is put on screen. There are layers to it, and peeling it back only reveals more layers. Behind one layer, we see the film is meant for those who feel like outsiders, cast out by a society that doesn’t deem them worthy of breathing the same air. And within each layer, we see a quiet and powerful performance by Sally Hawkins, who plays a cleaning lady at a secret government base which has imprisoned a new aquatic asset (Doug Jones). Despite the difference in species, Elisa finds a connection between her and the asset, and the two spark a beautiful bond unlike anyone has ever seen. The Shape Of Water is an unforgettable and divine fairy tale that makes me wonder why it has taken so long for it to get on the big screen. And be sure not to overlook the supporting cast that consists of Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, and Richard Jenkins.

Movie Review: Jordan Peele's Get Out

1 – Get Out

Get Out, Jordan Peele‘s directorial debut is definitely not like most films. It’s a dark satire that blends humor and horror with the current social climate that continues to affect race relations. Finding that balance and telling a good story would be a difficult enough task on its own, but Peele pulls it off with expertise and hopefully wakes a few audiences members up to how people can have a better understanding of current affairs. There are times in this film where it can be difficult to decide if we should be angry or if we should be laughing. But maybe that was the whole point. This thought-provoking piece gets to the heart of the matter by not shying away from the truth. Audiences see racism in a whole new light with this new artistic perspective that can make them feel uncomfortable at times. In the film lies little hints and nods to what is happening now. It may not be obvious to most people, but those eagle-eyed filmgoers, they will see what Peele is saying. Get Out doesn’t play by the rules of the genre; instead, it subverts them and as a result, it creates something fresh and unique.

Follow me on Twitter: @eelyajekim.

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