The 2017 Half-Time Report

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Hey, guys! First off, I want to say thank you for a great year and supporting Donttalkaboutmovies. This year has been an exciting year in film and you guys motivate me to keep watching movies! On that note, I want to give you guys the half-time report! This is a quick summary of my favorite (and least favorite) movies are so far this year.

In the Action/Adventure category, I was blown away by Edgar Wright’s jukebox musical heist thriller, Baby Driver. This is a candy-colored adrenaline rush that’s music to my ears and better on the second viewing. On the other hand, you can skip King Arthur: Legend of the Sword because it’s quite obvious Guy Ritchie has lost his way.

The Comedy genre has been lacking this year with lackluster films like Rough Night and Sandy Wexler; nonetheless, The Big Sick is a terrific comedy that hits all the right notes as a comedy, romance, drama, and social commentary film.

For the Horror genre, Get Out is king of 2017’s horror roster thus far. Writer/director Jordan Peele has crafted a funny, scary, and provocative horror film about racism. You can skip The Void, Unforgettable, The Belko Experiment, and The Mummy because those were all duds.

The Superhero genre has been booming lately and I can personally recommend Logan, Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Each movie is great in their own way, but definitely keep Logan away from younger viewers.

The Science Fiction/Fantasy category has been a tad underwhelming, but the Anne Hathaway-helmed Colossal blew my expectations out of the water. If you want a quirky genre movie that explores characters and darker themes, this one’s for you!

I have been slacking in the Drama category this year, but I still found Danny Boyle’s long-waited T2: Trainspotting to be a fun and stylish sequel about nostalgia.

In terms of animation, I’m still telling people to watch the anime film Your Name. I saw this on a whim and don’t regret it, thanks to its beautiful animation and mind-bending narrative.

Thanks for reading! What are your favorite films you’ve seen so far this year?

“It Comes at Night”

The apocalyptic horror genre is one of my favorites because it raises moral questions about survival. How far will you go to survive? Can you trust anyone? Can you live with killing someone? “It Comes at Night” asks these questions and the answer from watching this is no. “It Comes at Night” is the most haunting film I’ve seen this year.

An unknown plague has wiped out most of civilization. A family of three lives in a secluded mansion in the woods and consists of father Paul (Joel Edgerton), mother Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and teenaged son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). They offer shelter to a mysterious man named Will (Christopher Abbott) and his wife Kim (Riley Keough) after a brief violent confrontation.

Rules are established, but the two most important ones are don’t go out at night and leave the red door locked at all times. Will someone break the rules? Can Paul trust Will? Why does Travis wonder the house at night?

“It Comes at Night” is an unconventional apocalyptic horror film. Yes, there are gas masks, a nasty human virus, and barbaric standoffs. But there isn’t a known source of the virus, zombies, or a soldier with a false promise. That’s where writer/director Trey Edward Shults excels is his focus on the characters and minimal setting.

The characters stay within the home or its grounds. When they’re together, they have brief conversations and little is known about them, leaving the viewer to analyze them. The ruthless Paul is a former history teacher, so he was likely civilized prior to the virus. Will had various odd jobs before the outbreak and relocated several times during, so he struggles to protect his family.

“It Comes at Night” is told primarily through Travis’s point of view. He witnesses Paul’s survival instincts and realizes he may have to take drastic measures to survive. He has a series of nightmares that risk being cliched, but are ultimately used to reflect Travis’s emotions or foreshadow what’s to come. They’re refreshingly chilling sequences.

“It Comes at Night” will likely polarize audiences since some viewers will love its artistic take on horror while others will compare it unfavorably to “The Walking Dead.” I personally am on board and can’t stop thinking about this masterful study of human nature.

Grade: A

“Split”

Well, I can say I’m looking forward to whatever M. Night Shyamalan does next… For the first time since middle school.

“Split” opens with a mysterious man named Kevin (James McAvoy) abducting three teenagers, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), and Marcia (Jessica Sula). They wake up in a mysterious basement and learn that Kevin has Dissociative Identity Disorder, possessing 23 personalities. Meanwhile, Kevin’s therapist (Betty Buckley) suspects Kevin of hiding something sinister.

Shyamalan has fallen on hard times between the polarizing “The Village,” self-indulgent “Lady in the Water,” plain stupid “The Happening,” and flops “The Last Airbender” and “After Earth.” I missed “The Visit,” but “Split” is a return to form.

Shyamalan has a few of his usual flaws, like the quirky side characters, exposition-fueled monologues, and overly intelligent kids, but he makes it work. The quirks tie to the characters’ back stories, the exposition is fascinating and authentic, and the intelligent kids defy the usual dumb horror kids.

Shyamalan goes down some dark paths, exploring trauma, sexual abuse, and even cannibalism, but none of it is done for shock value. This is a character study of Kevin and Casey. They are both victims and understand each other. Casey not only learns how to trick Kevin through his personalities, but she learns what makes him tick, tying to her past.

I was worried about “Split” because I thought it would be an insensitive stereotypical depiction of mental illness, but it’s surprisingly sensitive. Each personality is a guard for Kevin, but only three of Kevin’s personalities are villainous. The rest want to help him and we can’t help but root for Kevin at times.

McAvoy brings his A-game as Kevin, Dennis, Barry, Miss Patricia, Hedwig, and The Beast. I know it’s a January horror movie, but this is a performance that should be considered for awards. For an egomaniac director such as Shyamalan, this isn’t his movie at all. It’s McAvoy’s.

Plot twist? Oh, yes. But you’ll have to find out for yourself.

Grade: A-

“The Witch”

“The Witch” is a slow burn melodrama, but a damn scary one! I applaud writer/director Robert Eggers for creating such a tense and atmospheric period piece.

“The Witch” takes place in the 1600’s and follows a deeply religious New England family, who moves from their plantation to an isolated forest to grow crops. Like most horror films, the family finds themselves cursed *after* moving. They soon believe they’re cursed by God when their crops die, their baby goes missing, and several horrific atrocities occur.

“The Witch” is one of the most mesmerizing and effective supernatural horror films I’ve ever seen. Eggers’ directorial debut is a love letter to witchcraft stories and a heartbreaking depiction of one very dysfunctional family.

We have our innocent protagonist Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), her religiously and sexually confused brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), creepy twin siblings, her noble-but-dimwitted father William (Ralph Ineson), and her increasingly psychotic mother Katherine (Kate Dickie). Their environment turns them against one another, as do their opposing views of God.

SOME SPOILERS AHEAD! SHIMMY IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS!

The witches are unseen for a majority of the time, but they instigate the family’s descent into madness and watch them fall apart. That’s what makes witches terrifying – their mind games. We also see animals in bizarre scenarios, including a stalker brown rabbit, a black goat that has a violent meltdown, and one disturbing sequence involving a crow.

Eggers directs the actors’ emotions masterfully with tight handheld close-ups, capturing their discomfort and heartbreak. His script’s dialogue is authentic Puritan dialogue that will force you to pay attention to the screen. His ambiguous writing is handled confidently. His buildup to the dark finale will leave you shaken. “The Witch” is a great horror film and not for the faint of heart.

Grade: A+

“The Boy”

I rarely see January-horror flicks because well… January flicks are usually terrible. “The Boy” is that kind of terrible that’s almost worth recommending.

In a formulaic intro, we meet Greta (Lauren Cohan), who’s hiding in London from an abusive ex-boyfriend; she takes a nanny gig at a creepy old mansion reminiscent of the one in “Crimson Peak”. It gets better – she’s babysitting a doll named Brahms! Greta ignores the basic rules she’s supposed to follow with Brahms and soon learns the hard way that Brahms might be alive.

Cool horror premise, right? Sure. The premise in “The Boy” is like something you’d read in a gothic mystery novel, but it’s executed like a teen soap opera. It’s still entertaining nonetheless.

Director William Brent Bell (2012’s god-awful “The Devil Inside”) has an eye for suspense. Horror movies are craftiest with editing and “The Boy” is a fine example here. Cuts between characters walking in creepy hallways to close-ups of the terrifying Brahms doll sent shivers down my spine at times.

The first act is a cliched horror movie opening with us meeting the quirky protagonist, tense parents, characters breaking rules we know they shouldn’t, and a couple of nightmare sequences, but the second act is the strongest segment in the movie.

SPOILER ALERT (Eh, sort of)

When Greta grows attached to Brahms and pays more attention to him for personal reasons than the handsome grocery boy (Rupert Evans) adds a mild psychological-driven tone to “The Boy”, but this is sadly a bit short lived.

The final act is ridiculous with confrontations between the protagonists, the ex, and BRAHMS! There are also twists and revelations that are compelling upon first viewing, but don’t make a whole lot of sense after digesting the movie.

“The Boy” is a better January-horror movie than “The Devil Inside”, “My Bloody Valentine 3D” (2009), “Daybreakers” (2010), and many more titles I forgot, but the third act could have been as fleshed out and compelling as the second act.

Grade: C+

“Crimson Peak”

“Beware… Beware of Crimson Peak.” We hear this line several times throughout Guillermo Del Toro’s gorgeous, violent, and redundant haunted house picture, “Crimson Peak”.

“Crimson Peak” has a line at one point that a character’s novel isn’t a ghost story, but a story with a ghost in it. That sums up the movie well. Mia Wasikowska (“Alice in Wonderland”) plays Edith, a young aspiring writer who marries Thomas (a brilliant Tom Hiddleston), a charismatic engineer. They move Edith into Thomas and his mysterious sister Lucille’s (Jessica Chastain) mansion where Edith discovers her marriage with Thomas isn’t perfect. And why is Lucille insisting Edith drink her tea? Why is Edith constantly woken up in a cliche horror movie fashion by ghosts?

I love Del Toro’s work. I loved both “Hellboy” movies, “Blade II” is my favorite installment in the trilogy, “Pacific Rim” is a criminally underrated monster flick, and “Pan’s Labyrinth” is a damn masterpiece. “Crimson Peak” is still as stunning and bizarre as his previous works, but it doesn’t feel like Del Toro’s heart is in this one.

The basic plot structure of “Crimson Peak” goes something like this – girl has a romantic afternoon with her lover and a standoffish encounter with her sister-in-law. Girl wakes up in the middle of the night and has a disturbing encounter with a ghost who leads her to a secret. This happens at least four times in “Crimson Peak”, and leads to a predictable conclusion.

Wasikowska gives a charming performance as Edith, Hiddleston easily has the best performance and character, giving Thomas a level of complexity, and Charlie Hunnam of “Sons of Anarchy” fame is enjoyable as a hopeless romantic doctor. Jessica Chastain has the weakest role in this movie. She’s wonderfully crazy, but she’s just there for the most part. We don’t get to know what drives her madness.

“Crimson Peak” is worth watching for the visuals and Hiddleston alone, but don’t go in expecting another “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

Grade: C