Well the summer blockbuster season is in full swing, and you can almost see the big fall festivals looming in the distance ahead. Yes it’s the halfway point of 2017, or as we’ve come to call it around here “six months until Star Wars”. While we wait, we thought we’d take a moment and look back at some of our favourite films of the first half of 2017. Interestingly enough while putting together this list, there was very little crossover between The Watchlist team. Is it a testament to the great variety of films released this year, or do we just not get along? Probably a bit of both. Enjoy the list!
Canadian director Drew Storen absolutely nails the tone of Dav Pilkey’s beloved comics in this fun and imaginative animated flick. A perfect voice cast and the goofy mixed-media animation (the flipbook moment is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year) made this a treat for the senses. The film’s greatest success however is the way it speaks to kids on their level. Captain Underpants has all the makings of a children’s classic for years to come.
Comedian turned director Jordan Peele exploded onto the scene this year with this unpredictable and utterly unique horror indie Get Out. The film places you in the shoes of its protagonist Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), forced to endure a weekend getaway that slowly transitions from uncomfortable to downright appalling. The shocking last act that will stick with you for days, and invites an almost immediate rewatch.
A car chase movie set to an eclectic rock and roll soundtrack sounds pretty run-of-the-mill, but in the hands of Edgar Wright it becomes something special. While the film takes a slightly more serious tone than previous works by the British director (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), a deep cast and a near constant stream of brilliant action set pieces cut to music make this one of the best times we’ve had in the theatre this year.
M. Night Shyamalan returned to the good graces of audiences with this tale of a kidnapper with 23 personalities. James McAvoy delivers a brilliant performance in the lead role(s), and the film’s twists and turns recall vintage Shyamalan. Hopefully this marks a sustained return to form for the once beloved director.
Not just a great animated film, but a great Batman movie in it’s own right! The LEGO Batman Movie is absolutely hilarious and chock full of enough in jokes and references to satisfy even the biggest fans of the caped crusader. While we initially scoffed at the idea of the LEGO movies, they have entirely won us over.
Released quietly and without much fanfare, Free Fire deserved better. The single-location shoot ‘em up action flick from Ben Wheatley is basically one big gunfight, but the fantastic choreography and cast of great character actors elevate the simple premise to something like a hilarious and violent dance number.
War For The Planet of the Apes
Hitting theatres on July 14, Matt Reeves’ second Apes film works as both a blockbuster spectacle and a nuanced character study, all anchored by Andy Serkis’ captivating performance as Caesar. With the news that Reeves will be heading up Ben Affleck’s next solo Batman film, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for this under the radar franchise.
Cutting through the glut of bloated super hero epics, James Mangold’s Logan was a surprise hit. Mangold’s film is a sombre character study of the superheroes who helped launch the current frenzy. The focus on story and character development didn’t outshine the action either, which impressed fans of the genre and fans of filmmaking alike.
Gordon Pinsent recounts his life in the industry in the documentary The River of My Dreams. His life story as told by him isn’t a groundbreaking work of filmmaking or journalism but it is a fascinating exploration of Canadian history. Pinsent’s life and career go hand in hand with the emergence and evolution of Canadian media and the perspective he offers is a poetic tribute.