5 Movies I Enjoyed That You May Have Missed in 2017:
1. Brigsby Bear - Kyle Mooney wrote the script and stars as James Pope, a man who was kidnapped as a child by Mark Hammill and Jane Adams, who hoped he’d become a genius over years spent sequestered in their bunker home. They convince him that the outside air is irradiated, so he never questions why they can’t leave, and Hammill’s character creates a TV show called Brigsby Bear to give him the false sense of a world community, and to teach him life lessons. And Brigsby Bear, a perfect caricature of kid TV, becomes his whole world.
When Mooney’s Pope is rescued from the bunker as an adult, and returned to his real family, he copes with the situation the only way he knows how - by turning to Brigsby Bear. New friends, new experiences, and the dream to finish the story of Brigsby make for a fantastic story and a wonderful, funny, heartwarming film. Greg Kinnear, Claire Danes, Matt Walsh, Beck Bennett, and Andy Samberg round out a stellar comedy cast worth watching. I say do so as early and often as possible.
2. Logan Lucky - Steven Soderbergh’s latest heist film may be his best, or at least second-best (I don’t want to diminish the genius of Out of Sight, one of the best Elmore Leonard adaptations ever made.).
A tremendous cast including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, and Dwight Yoakam make good use of Rebecca Blunt’s hilarious script, and the characters could not have been crafted any better. Tons of laughs, plenty of twists, and the perfect amount of gummy bear explosives help Logan Lucky stand out amongst the super hero movies of 2017, and it should have mad more noise at the box office.
The movie didn’t perform exceptionally well, though, which is a crime itself. I could easily see a number of Logan sequels built on the continuing hijinks of these characters, much the same as Soderbergh was able to build with the Oceans franchise. My entire family fell in love with this movie, and my suggestion would be to see it as soon as you can, and then watch it again when you have the time.
And then watch it again.
3. The Big Sick - Kumail Nanjiani is a funny guy, but not overly and overtly so. He’s the kind of funny that takes a while to adjust to, because he’s a nice guy who’s very dry. It would make sense, then, that he married a woman with the same sensibilities and sense of humor, but it was a relationship with plenty of obstacles along the way. And that’s a story worth telling.
In The Big Sick, Nanjiani weaves the tale of his early relationship with his wife, Emily Gordon, who co-wrote the script with him. Rebelling against the arranged-marriage culture of his Pakistani family, Kumail falls in love with Emily, an American girl played by Zoe Kazan, and faces the arduous task of telling his parents, who will surely disown him if he refuses to marry a Pakistani girl of whom they approve. Add to that a bad break-up, a life-threatening sickness, and the disapproval of Emily’s parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), and the film definitely has its conflict.
The performances are first-rate, and the family dynamics of Emily’s parents and the Nanjiani family dinner table are wonderfully handled, as Zenobia Shroff steals every scene she’s in as Kumail’s mother, Sharmeen.
This is a really good film. It’s small, honest, independent filmmaking at its best. You need to see it.
4. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets - If you love Luc Besson, and you love big, dumb, action movies, then this is the film for you. Besson’s first return to science fiction since The Fifth Element, Valerian is flashy, bright, loud, and full of CGI-crafted effects and characters that will definitely put a smile on your face.
He’s created a new universe, with new races and life forms, loosely based on the French comic, Valerian and Laureline. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne are serviceable as the two leads, and they don’t drag the film down, but they certainly don’t give performances reminiscent of Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich, either. But, here’s the thing - they don’t really need to.
If you’re going to watch this film, you’re probably watching it for the fun, and not for the performances or the story, which both get lost from time to time. What doesn’t get lost? The pace. It starts fast and picks up from there.
The film did not perform extremely well at the box office, and barely broke even before going to video, but I hope it finds the same cult-like following The Fifth Element did. It’s definitely not as good, but the heart is still in the right place.
5. Patti Cake$ - If you don’t mind your films a little flawed, and your language a little raw, Patti Cake$ might be the movie for you.
The story of a Jersey girl’s hip hop aspirations, this film caught me totally by surprise. I expected something loud and vulgar and brash after watching the trailer, but I did not expect to be drawn into the family dynamic, and the burgeoning relationships the way I was. Danielle Macdonald plays Patti for all she’s worth, and you not only root for her, you feel for her and hurt for her along the way. It would not surprise me to see her name popping up more and more in the near future.
The film itself is absurd, really, with the prospect of easily attainable music success, but the characters make it seem so close, and so special, that you don’t really care if the story is believable. It just feels real.
The once young and beautiful Cathy Moriarty has become the always reliable, always amazing character actor grandmother over the years, and she is wonderful in this as well. Same goes for Bridget Everett’s Barb, the mother we all hope to never have, and Patti’s sidekicks of Jheri and Basterd, who help bring different aspects of Patti’s personality to the forefront with their characters.
If you want an uplifting story that doesn’t really fit in with any of the other uplifting stories you’ve ever seen, this could be it.
So, there you have it - five movies from the past year that may have gotten past your radar. There are plenty more to make the list, and an even larger list of films I need to see myself, like The Survivalist, Paint it Black, Better Watch Out, A Ghost Story, Lucky, Super Dark Times, Thelma, These Final Hours, and many, many more.
If you love film, share your picks as well - we all love a good suggestion.