The Best Films of 2017 (So Far)

It’s hard to believe we’re halfway through 2017.

Traditionally, the first half of the year is a mixed bag. We must endure the dumping grounds known as January and February, hoping maybe something of note will slip through the cracks.  Summer seems to begin earlier and earlier each year, as some big budget players try to get a jump on the blockbuster season with notable releases in March and April.  And then the popcorn season officially begins in earnest on that first week of May, and the cineplexes fill up with loud explosions, CGI, and cute animated critters.

When looking back on films you’ve enjoyed from January to July, it’s always interesting to think about how many of them will actually land high on your top ten list come year’s end.  Let’s face it, for many of us, some of the best films roll out after October first, either as Oscar bait or holiday blockbusters.  The back half of 2017 is loaded with some serious heavyweights in both regards, so it’ll be fun to see how it all shakes out.

That said, the staff at Feelin’ Film has compiled our individual top three films of the first half of the year, presented for your reading enjoyment below.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on our picks, and invite you to leave your thoughts and own lists in the comments section or on the Facebook page.  Or, if you just want to mock Aaron for his pretentiousness, that’s okay too.

Without further ado….

#3  Steve – Beauty & the Beast

I admit I’m a bit bias here, with having been a slave to the Mouse House for nine years of my existence.  I met my better half at Disney and our first date was actually seeing the animated version in theaters.  Personally, I think this is one of Disney’s best tales, and the live action film was everything I hoped it would be.  Haters gonna hate, but I think Emma Watson was a perfect choice for the role of Belle, and the production value is a high point.

#3  Don – Lucky

In a rare and perfect leading role for his stature, Harry Dean Stanton play the titular nicknamed war veteran, diner regular, and barfly slowly coming to grips with his own quickly approaching mortality.  In “…if it hasn’t killed me yet” fashion, the rough edges of this straight shooter melt away to a warm heart at the core as he looks into himself and his small town connections.  Lucky washes its salty kick with a soft finish, without a wasted spec of storytelling patience.

#3  Patrick – Spider-Man: Homecoming

My man Peter Parker comes swinging onto the big screen once again, but this time I think the filmmakers found the perfect balance of what makes your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man work.  Tom Holland is a great long-term investment, and the deal between Sony and Marvel Studios is a win-win for EVERYONE.  I’m looking forward to seeing how creative both companies will get with this latest and hopefully final iteration of the web-slinger.

#3  Jeremy – Spider-Man: Homecoming

I didn’t think it would be possible for me to enjoy a comic book film more than I enjoyed Wonder Woman, but Spider-Man proved me wrong.  It’s a perfect combination of cast and story; comedy and drama; thrills and fun.

#3  Aaron – Get Out

This place on my list is extremely competitive.  Personal Shopper, The Beguiled, and The Lego Batman Movie all deserve recognition here.  But the most impactful film of this group was my experience seeing Get Out among a packed, diverse crowd.  Jordan Peele has taken his trademark humor, social commentary, horror, and thriller aspects and reassembled them into one of the most creative, intense, crazy genre-benders I’ve ever seen.  It’s one of those rare films that feels “important” while also being incredibly entertaining, and it’s one film I suggest everyone see.


#2  Patrick – Wonder Woman

In the muck and mire that is the DC criticism, and the reality that is superhero fatigue, I walked out of this movie feeling incredibly encouraged and refreshed about the future of the genre.  Having never been a huge fan of Diana Prince, being able to keep me engaged and wanting more installments of the Amazon goddess says something about director Patty Jenkins, star Gal Gadot, and company.  I’m looking forward to Justice League even more after seeing this one.

#2  Don – The Big Sick

The Big Sick nimbly moves with a constant levity, even when the potential for heavy drama invades.  That jocular wit makes you appreciate any of the lows that sneak up on you because they arrive bearing tissues for your smiling eyes.  It is one of the best romantic comedies of this short century and one of the best films of 2017, period.

#2  Jeremy – Baby Driver

While it’s probably my least favorite Edgar Wright film, Baby Driver is still thrilling enough to be my second favorite film of the year so far.  Heck, if all I got was a blank screen with the soundtrack blasting, it would probably still land as my number three.

#2  Steve – Baby Driver

Edgar Wright continues to expand his unique visual style in this revved up, supercharged action thriller.  The story of a misguided kid getting in too deep with big time criminals might not seem unfamiliar, but with fantastic performances and the soundtrack of the year keeping tempo with the on screen mayhem, Baby Driver is a white knuckle ride of pure adrenaline.

#2  Aaron – A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story is a simple, unique, and poetic film about the fragility of life and passing of time.  Its pacing requires complete dedication and patience from an audience, something that will certainly not appeal to all, and may cause frustration.  However, for those who commit, this is a masterpiece filmmaking effort by the superbly talented David Lowery that will haunt their emotions and thoughts.


#1 Don – War for the Planet of the Apes

So far this year, I’ve only given four five-star reviews, and no film has impressed me more completely from top to bottom that this trilogy capper.  From Michael Giacchino’s score and all of the weighty nuances brimming inside this epic, to the masterful and special performance by Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes carries the highest and best emotionality that actually felt like it mattered.

#1  Aaron – Your Name

This is a story about dreams (and desperately trying not to forget them), time travel, body swaps, natural disaster, coming of age, romance, and deep longing that is emotionally riveting from beginning to end.  Comedic at all the right times, soul-crushingly painful, and yet tender and hopeful.  Your name is an animated masterpiece that goes far beyond its dazzling visuals, and is the film that has most deeply affected me in 2017 so far.  (Note:  This film initially released in Japan in 2016 but did not receive an American release until 2017)

#1  Steve – Wonder Woman

Consider me the chief skeptic when it comes to the DC cinematic universe, but Wonder Woman far surpassed my middling expectations.  It took studios long enough to throw bank at a female fronted superhero film, but man, the wait was worth it.  Director Patty Jenkins handled every nuance with such great care, Gal Gadot owned the role of the princess , Diana, and the importance of what this film manages to accomplish for women everywhere cannot be understated.  Is this not the best cinematic moment of any superhero film ever?

#1  Jeremy – Get Out

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is both the most important and most thought provoking film I’ve seen this year.  It’s gotten funnier and more intense every time I’ve watched it, even though I’m fully aware of what’s coming.  I’d be shocked if it’s much lower on my list come January.

#1  Patrick – The Lego Batman Movie

I don’t know that I’ve laughed this loud and so many times in a theater in a long time.  Everything about this film made my theater experience incredible.  The story felt original, the callbacks to the past franchises were on point, and the jokes felt perfectly placed.  Walking out, I knew I wanted to own it immediately.

There you have it.  Disagree?  Let us have it.  Share your top films with us.  Hopefully, we’ve added something to your cinematic radar and you’ll all soon be feelin’ these films as well.

Episode 066: Spider-Man: Homecoming

This week we’re excited to be talking about our friendly neighborhood web-slinger and his triumphant return to Marvel storytelling control. Spider-Man: Homecoming is fun, fun, fun. We discuss new tech, getting the high school setting right, and who our favorite Spider-Man of the past 20 years is.

What We’ve Been Up To – 001:15

(Aaron –  Board Games/Pandemic Legacy: Season 1)
(Patrick – The 48-Hour Film Project)

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review – 0:23:59

The Connecting Point – 1:12:47

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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What We Learned This Week: July 2-8

ALL SPIDER-MAN SPECIAL!

LESSON #1: CAST TEENAGERS TO PLAY TEENAGERS— Sorry, makeup artists specializing in the Hollywood Fountain of Youth, but if you want your movie to have convincing teenagers, cast teenage performers.  I don’t care how young somebody looks.  You can tell they are too old when they’re too old.  Take Spider-Man: Homecoming as an example.  Tom Holland was 19 when cast as the web-slinger and he was finally a convincing high schooler after Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were both well into their twenties playing the character.  His best bud Ned, played by Jacob Batalon, is the same age, as is The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Tony Revolori playing Flash Thompson.  The girls were 50/50.  Zendaya was the same 19 playing Michelle, but then 27-year-old Laura Harrier soars past the mark as #1 crush Liz.   Earlier in the year, 27-year-old Britt Robertson feigned playing 18 in The Space Between Us.  Casting agents, dive deeper and younger.  There’s plenty of talent out there.

LESSON #2: NO ACTOR OR ACTRESS DESERVES DEATH THREATS FOR ANYTHING— Speaking of Tony Revolori, one tremendous and progressive aspect of Spider-Man: Homecoming is the casting diversity.  However, when you get enough terrible Comic Book Guy-types from The Simpsons bearing silly and short-sighted torches, stupid and nitpicky crap occurs.  Revolori recently revealed that he received death threats when he was cast as the typically white jock character of Flash Thompson.   I don’t care what someone does to butcher a character or an entire movie (which Revolori doesn’t, by the way).  No one deserves death threats.  It’s a movie and supposed to be simple entertainment.  The film and the people making it have zero effect on the balance of life.  Tony Revolori may have parents of Guatemalan descent, but he was born-and-raised in Anaheim, California.  He’s as American as you or I.  The same goes for the Hawaiian Batalon, the African-American Chicago native Harrier, and the biracial Zendaya from Oakland.  If you want to complain about immigrants or foreigners, kindly remind yourself that the Tom Holland you are watching and loving as Spider-Man is as British as an English muffin.  He’s the least American thing in the entire film.  Wipe the racism off your face and leave everyone else alone.

LESSON #3: SPIDER-MAN IS SO MUCH BETTER WHEN HE DOESN’T CRY— Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield had their chances and, for what it’s worth, had their merits for their interpretations of Spider-Man.  Their films asked for angst and the actors gave them angst.  That said, it is so incredibly buoyant and refreshing to have a Spider-Man that doesn’t cry like a big baby multiple times a film.  Tom Holland plays the kid with stresses and troubles, for sure, but with a gumption to weather the moments.  I’m not saying he shouldn’t ever cry.  I’m just saying stories should save that for real loss and we’re not there yet.  No “Tobeyface” is an awesome thing!

LESSON #4:  DEAR SONY, PLEASE DON’T MESS UP THIS GIFT YOU RECEIVED FROM MARVEL FILMS— Sony Pictures wisely put aside studio rivalries to allow Spider-Man’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War and, even further, Marvel Films to co-produce Spider-Man: Homecoming to fit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  They fixed what Sony ran into the ground TWICE with over-stuffed franchises.  Spider-Man: Homecoming smartly scaled the character and setting down to New York and essentially a single villain instead of two or three as has happened in the past.  That’s the right pace.  Yet, we’re still watching Sony not be able to help themselves by announcing a Tom Hardy-led Venom film before our shiny new Spider-Man even works for the Daily Bugle and encounters an alien symbiote costume.  The future introductions of Carnage, Kraven, and Mysterio were also announced.  In addition, director Jon Watts is talking Morbius, Chameleon, and even an MCU version of Blade in his ideal future (which should send Wesley Snipes’s agent into a tizzy). Spider-Man 3 aside, all of those villains, like Michael Keaton’s Vulture, are untapped characters for the big screen and would make excellent stories… but in due time.  Sony, please take your time.  Slow play this and milk every dollar.  There’s no need for a quick score.  You’ve got a young Spider-Man and you’re set to make a billion bucks on his first film.  This windfall could last a decade or more with patience. Don’t screw this up.  While we’re at it, I hope big-wigs at 20th Century Fox are watching how this plays out.  Deadpool was a nice success, but your X-Men films are lacking.  Hop on the Marvel bandwagon and unite families together

LESSON #5: MARVEL KNOWS WE LOVE POST-CREDITS SCENES AND THEY ARE BEGINNING TO MESS WITH US— When you see Spider-Man: Homecoming, you’ll know what I mean.  Face it.  They have us trained.  No one leaves the theater of the MCU film until the projector turns off and the lights come on.  Post-credits scenes have been a Marvel signature since Iron Man and they are fun little details, even when they are not important or essential.  The final post-credits scene from Spider-Man: Homecoming trolls our trained behavior so hard.  You will see and I, for one, applaud them for messing with us.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.

Minisode 19: Summer Movie Challenge (2017)

It’s that time again to make box office predictions for the Summer Movie Challenge. This yearly competition involves us choosing what we think will be the highest grossing films between May and Labor Day. This year we are joined by our Feelin’ Film contributors – Don and Steve. Who will emerge victorious? Listen to hear our picks and find out how you can play along!

2017 Summer Movie Challenge Rules

The rules for the game come from TimeTravelReview’s Summer Movie Pool:

The object is to pick the films that you think will be the top-ten grossing films of the summer, in order of box-office performance. As I’ve said, that means only films released from May 1st 2017 to the Labor Day weekend, counting only the money those films make domestically (US and Canada) in that period. In other words films from March or April might still be making money after May 1st, but they don’t count; films released from May on could start racking up foreign B.O., but that doesn’t count; films released from May on could still be making money into September, but that doesn’t count either. Box Office numbers are generally available late Monday or Tuesday after the weekend closes. For the last seven or so years, I have been using box office numbers from Yahoo Box Office which gets their numbers in turn from Box Office Mojo. So what you will be doing is figuring out what 10 films will make the most money, and putting them in order of what you think they will gross at the box office. BUT, in addition to your top 10, you get to pick 3 “Dark Horses”- films you think *might* make it, but that you are not confident enough about to put into the top 10 proper.

2017 Summer Movie Challenge Scoring:

To see how we are doing check out the official SMC Scoreboard:

  • Getting number 1 or number 10 dead-on gets you 13 points (each).

The rest of the scoring goes like this:

  • 10 points for numbers 2-9 dead-on
  • 7 points if your pick was only one spot away from where it ended up
  • 5 points if it was two spots away
  • 3 points if your pick is anywhere in the Top 10
  • 1 point for each dark horse that makes it into the Top 10

The scoring is tabulated so that you get the SINGLE HIGHEST point value for each pick- that is, if you get number ten right, you don’t get 13+3, you only get 13.

Aaron

1. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
2. Despicable Me 3
3. Transformers: The Last Knight
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming
6. Cars 3
7. Wonder Woman
8. War for the Planet of the Apes
9. Alien: Covenant
10. Baywatch
DH: The Mummy, Dunkirk, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Patrick
1. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
3. Alien: Covenant
4. Despicable Me 3
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
6. War for the Planet of the Apes
7. Wonder Woman
8. Cars 3
9. The Mummy
10. Baywatch
DH: Dunkirk, Transformers: The Last Knight, Baby Driver
Don
1. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
2. Despicable Me 3
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
4. Wonder Woman
5. Transformers: The Last Knight
6. Cars 3
7. War for the Planet of the Apes
8. Baywatch
9. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
10. Dunkirk

DH: Alien: Covenant, Captain Underpants, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Steve
1. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
3. Despicable Me 3
4. War for the Planet of the Apes
5. Transformers: The Last Knight
6. Cars 3
7. Wonder Woman
8. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
9. The Mummy
10. Captain Underpants
DH: Alien: Covenant, The Dark Tower, Baywatch

Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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What We Learned This Week: March 26-April 1

LESSON #1: BRETT RATNER IS FULL OF SUGAR-HONEY-ICED-TEA— Formerly prolific film director Brett Ratner, who’s been cleaning it up as a producer of Ratpac Entertainment, stepped out late last week to pontificate to Entertainment Weekly that “the worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture is Rotten Tomatoes” and added “I think it’s the destruction of our business.”  You can read his full thoughts, but I don’t buy his logic.  Rotten Tomatoes is too big and combines too many diverse critics for a film to be held down.  If you want better RT scores, make better movies.  It’s that easy.  Brett is full of it and, if you’ve seen his films, as I have, you probably already knew that.

LESSON #2: WARNER BROS. IS GOING ALL-IN WITH POTENTIAL COURSE CORRECTION ON THE DC EXTENDED UNIVERSE— Pack your bags when you’re done with “Justice League,” Zach Snyder.  New talent is coming.  Warner Bros. already poached James Wan of “The Conjuring/Insidious/Saw” fame for “Aquaman” two years ago and last month Chris McKay of “The LEGO Batman Movie” was tabbed to direct a solo “Nightwing” movie, joining “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” helmer Matt Reeves jumping on “The Batman.”  This week, news broke Thursday that “Avengers” and “Firefly” mastermind Joss Whedon has crossed party lines to direct a standalone “Batgirl” movie for Warner Bros.  Now that is the coup of coups and a perfect director to deliver a legitimate female superhero film.  When “Kingsman” and “X-Men: First Class” director Matthew Vaughn puts ink to paper for “Man of Steel 2,” the shift from Total Snyder will be complete and it looks outstanding.

LESSON #3: IF YOU THINK THE “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST” RE-IMAGINING IS HUGE, JUST WAIT FOR “THE LION KING” ONE IN A FEW YEARS— Unlike the opinions of many skeptical haters, “Beauty and the Beast” destined to be a smash.  Bill Condon was a different class of director and the casting was incredible before the cameras ever rolled.  Sure enough, it has raked over $750 million worldwide in just two weeks and should cross the $1 billion mark with ease before it’s run is done.  Watch “The Lion King” do even better in a few years.  Jon Favreau nailed “The Jungle Book,” “The Lion King” has an ever larger following than “Beauty and the Beast,” and the rumors of potentially casting Beyonce as Nala to join Donald Glover’s Simba and a returning James Earl Jones  as Mufasa would be colossal.  Place that bet right now that “The Lion King” will make even more money.

LESSON #4: WATCH FEWER TRAILERS THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED— A conga line of trailers for 2017 wannabe blockbusters arrived in the last two weeks and, I, for one, wish I didn’t see a single one of them.  Trailers these days are showing too much.  Between “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Justice League” to “War for the Planet of the Apes” and “Alien: Covenant” and more, I felt like I was inundated with too many clues and potential spoilers.  Frankly, I’m beginning to avoid trailers altogether and have been recommending others to do the same.  Why?  Ask yourself this cardinal question: Do you really need to be convinced from any footage to see some of these slam-dunk-must-see films?  Because I don’t.  These no-doubters are getting my money regardless on resume and presence alone.  Avoid the easy and rote trailers and let yourself be surprised.  Even though I know this isn’t going to happen, I hope Disney doesn’t show a single second of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”  They don’t need to and, in a roundabout way, not releasing a trailer would be such a huge and unprecedented “less is more” statement proving that you can sell a movie on reputation alone.  A boy can dream.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current President of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.