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Jan 18, 2018







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Wonder Woman




Coming in 2018

I gave a giddy little “weee!” when I first saw the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, scheduled for release May 4, 2018. Here are a few other things I’m looking forward to in the first half of next year:
 
Black Panther (Feb. 16) First introduced in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) gets his own movie.
Early Man (Feb. 16) Another animated adventure from Aardman Animations (of Wallace & Gromit fame).
A Wrinkle in Time (March 9) The trailers for this Ava DuVernay-directed adaption of the popular kid’s book have set the bar very high.
• Ready Player One (March 30) This movie from Steven Speilberg looks futuristic and nostalgic at the same time.
Overboard (April 20) I am intrigued by this remake of the 1987 movie featuring Ana Faris in the Kurt Russell role, Eugenio Derbez in the Goldie Hawn role and Eva Longoria playing Faris’ friend.




The blockbusters strike back
Good movies, good big movies and more from 2017 at the cineplex

12/28/17
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



 It wasn’t a perfect movie but it was a very enjoyable movie I was delighted to watch.

In 2017, I said something like that about several big-budget movies. Sure, there were also some not so great superhero films (count me as “eh” on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), some unnecessary sequels (just stop, Pirates of the Caribbean movies) and some total stinker attempts at those expanded cinematic universes everybody wants (poor The Mummy and its thus far unloveable Dark Universe). But in the popcorn movie world, there were some truly enjoyable entries.
With the usual caveats about all the things I haven’t seen (including, among the much-lauded year-end releases, Darkest Hour; Call Me By Your Name; The Shape of Water; I, Tonya; Downsizing; The Post; Molly’s Game; The Phantom Thread, and All The Money in the World) here are the movies I’ve enjoyed the most in 2017, and a few I’ll be happy to forget about entirely.
Good movies I probably can’t bring myself to watch again: If you haven’t seen The Florida Project, Thank You For Your Service and Wind River, I definitely urge you to do it. The Florida Project is both stark and joyous in its look at the precarious existence of a young girl and her mom living in an Orlando motel. Wind River follows the investigation of a crime on an Indian Reservation and the deep sorrow of parents who lose children. I found myself thinking about Thank You For Your Service for days after I saw this movie about soldiers returning home and attempting, despite the traumas they suffered and with little help from their government, to fit back in to their civilian lives. Honorable mentions go to Mudbound, a look at post-World-War II Mississippi and especially the deep injustice suffered by returning African-American soldiers, and Detroit, an imperfect but relevant movie about the 1967 riots in Detroit featuring some strong performances. Solid movies all — and all good enough at putting you in the characters’ harrowing situations that I’m not sure I can bring myself to revisit these stories. But they’re definitely worth seeing once!
Worth their buzz: I did not think Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk was the biggest bestest war movie but it does a lot of interesting things with how it puts you the viewer in the Allied evacuation of Dunkirk. And I’m always up for a Mark Rylance performance. Battle of the Sexes, about the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs tennis match in 1973, also has some fine performances, most notably Steve Carell as huckster Riggs, Emma Stone’s King, who publicly struggles with sexism and privately comes to terms with her attraction to women, and New Hampshire’s own Sarah Silverman, who is a jolt of awesome energy every time she’s on screen. The Big Sick, based on the real-life romance of comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, is also chock full of good acting work (Nanjiani, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano) and smart insights about romance, marriage and family.
And when you have the time: Check out Wasted: The Story of Food Waste, a documentary featuring Anthony Bourdain that will give you fun, at times nerdy (but not scoldy) insight. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is best at the parts that don’t directly involve the titular professor and creator of the Wonder Woman comic, namely a sweet romance between the two women in his life and a look at the difficulties talented women faced being taken seriously in the early and mid 20th century. American Made, a bubbly look at the CIA’s arming of the Contras in the 1970s and 1980s, is a great reminder of why Tom Cruise is a movie star (and another example of Domhnall Gleeson’s talent for playing villains). Baby Driver may suffer from its Kevin Spacey association but writer/director Edgar Wright has created a delightful blend of music, car chases and romance, starring Ansel Elgort and Lily James. 
Don’t waste your time: Based on nominations for the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, Oscar completists may find themselves moved to watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a movie that isn’t nearly smart or careful enough with its tale of a grieving mother and her battle with the local police department, and Roman J. Israel, Esq., a movie that is really just a decent Denzel Washington performance surrounded by a bunch of confused plot bits. Not an awards junkie? You can skip these.
Moments of kooky fun: Annabelle: Creation is a surprisingly, if unevenly, fun continuation of the spin-off series based on that creepy doll from The Conjuring. Gothic weirdness makes My Cousin Rachel and Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled worth a watch for those looking for a little hoop-skirt-wearing madness on some lazy day on the sofa.
I did not like these movies: Horror movies It and Split received much praise, but not from me. It felt silly and Split felt like it wanted credit for cinematic fanciness when it was really just another excuse to torture female characters without giving them agency or depth.
• But I did like some horror: In addition to the aforementioned Annabelle movie and Get Out (more on that later), I had a delightful time watching Happy Death Day, which did give its stereotypical horror movie victim (a blonde sorority girl) lots of depth, personality and agency.
• The kids (movies) are alright: I did not love Pixar’s Coco, but there were plenty of kids’ movies that were, to my mind, good even if they weren’t great. I gave Bs (some with pluses or minuses) to Smurfs: The Lost Village (the least annoying Smurfs movie in recent memory!), the The LEGO Ninjago Movie, the even better The LEGO Batman Movie and the joyful Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. The Boss Baby sticks out as a movie that was fun entertainment and had a little more going on (the way older siblings deal, and don’t, with the arrival of an attention-stealing baby). 
Not mad, just disappointed: Based on source material or talent or trailers, several movies this year had potential for, if not greatness, pretty-goodness but fell short for a variety of reasons, including doing nothing interesting or innovative with well-known property (Murder on the Orient Express and Beauty and the Beast), assembling a strong cast and a decent premise but then failing to create laughs (Baywatch, The House), being a pretty-looking mess (Atomic Blonde) and lacking focus (Marshall). And then there’s Justice League, which I didn’t hate, I guess, but which didn’t live up to any of the promise shown in Wonder Woman.
But if you want to be mad: Just Getting Started and Home Again both appeared to be pandering to their audiences (seniors and ladies, respectively) without actually telling a relatable story or even offering decent escapism. Of all this year’s sequels, Jigsaw, a stab at reviving the Saw franchise, felt the most unnecessary. Geostorm should have been a magnificent swirl of junk food disaster movie nonsense but it wasn’t nearly as fun or funny as it could have been. As mentioned, The Mummy was, to quote my review, “a dumb movie that makes me pre-exhausted for all the dumb sequels it could potentially spawn.” And then there’s bewilderingly terrible frozen-north crime story The Snowman.
The “What the Heck Is This”-iest movie of 2017: Mother! (or technically, I believe, mother!) is a lost-and-found box of total insanity from Darren Aronofsky featuring Bible stuff and environmental stuff and maybe something about marriage and God knows (or is it Satan?) what else. Having said that, I agree with the critic on some podcast (the Slate Spoiler Special, I believe) who pointed out that all this artsy nonsense spawned some fun think pieces and podcast discussions about what the movie means. One thing I don’t think I heard or read anybody comment on: is “mother!” even a noun or a verb? Discuss!
• My favorite movies of 2017: Near the end of Logan Lucky, someone describes this West-Virginia-set low-key comedy heist as “Ocean’s 7-Eleven,” which perfectly sums up this entertaining movie starring Channing Tatum and Adam Driver. 
I can’t remember the last time I laughed at a movie as hard as I laughed at The Disaster Artist, starring Francos James and Dave, and I’ve never even seen The Room, the cult classic movie it’s about. 
If you want serious movies about war, civil society, life regrets and sacrifice look no further than War for the Planet of the Apes and Logan, which, yes, is about Wolverine from X-Men. For reals! These movies prove that movies slapped with the “sci-fi” and “comic book” labels can tell smart stories with great performances (from Andy Serkis, of course, in Apes and from Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in Logan).
Spider-Man: Homecoming proved that sometimes the best thing you can do with a big superhero movie that is attached to a massive cinematic universe is to think small. Tom Holland’s Spidey is indeed a friendly neighborhood crime fighter whose fight with the bad (but thankfully not omnipotent world-destroyer) Michael Keaton has stakes and excitement.
Of course, you can also keep a franchise going by ignoring expectations entirely as some parts of the internet apparently believe Star Wars: The Last Jedi does. I personally think the “anything can happen” realignment of the story is exactly what this saga needs to stay fresh and exciting and the movie had lots of boisterous fun along with surprisingly strong character and relationship development.
Very favorite, honorable mention: I’ll let Get Out, Jordan Peele’s excellent, hilarious, thoughtful horror movie from early in the year, and Thor: Ragnarok, the (finally) super fun Thor/Marvel Cinematic Universe movie from late in the year, share the third-place position on my list of favorites. Both movies were a great time. 
Second favorite but most perfect: Greta Gerwig, writer and director of Lady Bird, has crafted a perfect movie. Everything about this tale of a girl in her final year of Catholic school — performances, writing, camera work, music, pacing, emotion, mother-daughter relationship — is exactly right for the moment and flawless. 
My most favorite movie: Wonder Woman was not the most perfect movie of 2017; it has flaws. But I was delighted to watch it, delighted by what it did with the story and delighted by the character director Patty Jenkins and actress Gal Gadot created. 





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