Cinema 2017 Half-Time Report: Movies 3/4

Here are 8 more recommendations movie-wise from the pre-summer, awards season era of this year. 2017 has uncovered some gems for me personally, and a lot of you too by the looks of things. How many of these have you seen:

Get Out

The last time I spoke highly of a horror film, it was writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s truly terrifying It Follows in 2014. And right out of the bat, first-time writer-director Jordan Peele – yes, that Jordan Peele from Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele” – etches his name into horror movie history with this disturbing and darkly humorous flick about an interracial couple, played by Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams, who visit the latter’s parent’s house, only to be confronted with a family that kidnaps black men and robs them of their livelihood to benefit their disturbed relatives. What resonates with me is the cultural subtext – the moment Chris asks “why black people?”, only to hear that because blacks are a fad, Peele’s satire rings through – that even white liberals, with good intentions, can fall prey to racism. —– Jonathan Holmes @MisterBrown_23

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Divines

My wife so happened to be fed up of the coming-of-age movies when we sat down to watch this one, or else she would have raved about it too. I think Divines, brutally and beautifully directed by Houda Benyamina, transcends the mere notion of a self-discovery movie. The picture has teen life at it’s grittiest, asks many questions about the poverty-stricken areas (of Paris in this case), it delves into your future, and what you’re prepared to do about it. Drug-dealing and skipping school are plot devices here, and relevant ones, Divines also shines a warm light on young friendship, family failings, betrayal, and dealt with in such a realistic manner is the minor glimmers of attraction. Moving, paced to perfection, and captivating as hell – this is also superbly acted on all fronts, the central character of Dounia in particular is brought to life by Oulaya Amamra with emotive bite and passion. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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T2 Trainspotting

Sequels tend to annoy me. Sequels done 20 years after their iconic predecessor even more so. Sequels done 20 years after their iconic predecessor during such money-grabbing, style over substance times actually scare me. Which is why it is so freaking refreshing to watch something featuring across the board acting that respects the original characters, writing that tributes the story-line in organically developing persons and histories, and directing providing actual direction; a mature homage to the core meaning of the narrative instead of a visual race towards outdoing. Twenty years down the line, our heroes have evolved And so have we alongside them. They are a mirror of you and me, and we are all older, wiser, fatigued, but still painfully flawed. —– The Greek

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Bi-mil-eun eobs-da (The Truth Beneath)

When director Lee Kyeong-mi finished the script for this sophisticated, unusual political thriller, she knew her hardest battles were yet to come. A) She needed funding for a female-lead thrill ride in a male-dominated industry, and B) she needed an actress whose popularity would secure financing in a male-dominated industry. Enter South Korea’s box-office heavyweight: Son Ye-jin. With Son at her side, the money came in, and this heartbreaking, unnerving, and sometimes gruesome thriller hit the big screen to critical and box office success. But The Truth Beneath isn’t merely a “South Korean thrillers.” Although we’ve seen myriad fathers and pseudo-father figure do-gooders fight sadomasochists, The Truth Beneath squares on Yeon-hong (Son, fearlessly exploiting the emotional spectrum) and her missing daughter. She’s not helpless, but she’s not well-equipped as she sifts through daughter’s mysterious disappearance. She’s naive, but catches on quickly, going places and following leads the police seem to dismiss. But while her politician husband remains consumed by his campaign, The Truth Beneath reveals a woman’s relationship with her family–and to the power-hungry world in which she lives–as complex, unpredictable, and necessitating rebellion. —– Ian Nichols @iantilnic

Hounds of Love

Hounds of Love marks the written and directed debut of Ben Young – and it’s quite a master stroke of a first feature too. An Australian production, the movie centers on the crime-couple John and Evelyn White, who appear to be responsible for the disappearance of missing girls. A local girl is approached by them, at first friendly, lure her into their home where she is captured and tied to the bed. The harrowing, and mercifully surprising, events that follow shape the unknown near-future for our victim, but also shines a spotlight into the eyes of the deranged couple as their bricks start to crumble. Young incorporates some fine motion pacing, and crams in a couple of his favorite music track as effective narrative aids. Some remarkable acting too, with the trio of Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, and Stephen Curry, all dazzling. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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Alien: Covenant

So, you’re telling me Ridley Scott came back to the greatest sci-fi film franchise that he himself created? I’m in a thousand times over and then some. As someone who felt unfulfilled coming out of Prometheus, Alien: Covenant blew away my expectations of what it could have ever been. Something that was missing from the original Alien and its processor Aliens was the world building element. They were very confined to their own stories. Meanwhile both Prometheus and Covenant have answered some of my most burning questions yet also leaves me fiending for another sequel. Embracing its’ horror roots Covenant has a new doomed crew who finds the devious and unnerving David, played by Michael Fassbender. New additions to the crew unveil the horror of the creation of Xenomorphs and the lengths that some will go to achieve their ambitions, however terrible they may seem. Alien: Covenant is a fun ride and a worthy addition to the franchise. —– Mike Austin @MuzakWeeWoo

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Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

Perhaps the biggest trap any sequel can fall into is the notion that the second go-around has to be bigger than the first; only to forget that it also should be better. Writer-director James Gunn deftly avoids this by keeping his focus on this motley crew of bounty hunters and misfits that have come together from the first installment and now try to work out how to stay together as a family – Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is discovering his heritage through his long-lost father, Ego (Kurt Russell); Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is dealing with her psychotic sister, Nebula (Karen Gillian), as well as the damage done to her by their father, Thanos; and Yondu (Michael Rooker) is coming to terms with what he means to Quill. There’s plenty of humor and terrific visuals (Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Art Direction feel like shoe-ins for the Oscars), including a breakout sequence set to Jay and the Americans “Come a Little Bit Closer”, but what makes this superhero space opera one Marvel Studios’ finest installments to date is the attention to character and building further on this cosmic universe Gunn has created. —– Jonathan Holmes @MisterBrown_23

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76 Minutes and 15 Seconds with Abbas Kiarostami

Renowned Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami passed in 2016, but his legacy of proximal relationship dramas that were genre- and narrative-bending pieces of contemporary art. Kiarostami’s friend, Seyfolah Samadian, compiled “home movies,” creating a structureless documentary–a series of moments with Kiarostami. These fleeting peeks into the venerated Iranian director’s days are unspecial, yet entirely invigorating. Kiarostami’s notes in poetry books and his own poetry. His art installations of towering trees or his woodland film lectures. His rain-on-a-windshield photography and the short film of geese on the overcast ocean shore. This movie is a voyeuristic doc-eulogy to the late director and the love-labor of art and artists. Creativity’s potential hides in every day’s every minute and Kiarostami aggressively exorcised it from the night of mundanity. —– Ian Nichols @iantilnic

What are your thoughts on these selections. Again, what have we missed? Stay tuned for the last 8.

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