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Best Movies of 2017 (That You Probably Missed)

12.27.2017

With the end of the year practically here, and 2018 looming around the corner, the internet is awash in top 10 lists of all varietals. There are lists of things you didn’t even know could be made a list of, like “Top 10 Best Running Shoe Designs” and “Top 10 Sci-Fi-Themed Pop-Up Restaurants.”  Human beings really like lists. I don’t know why. But, for us film buffs, the Best of the Year lists for movies and TV shows are basically required reading/making, and we here at JoBlo have a very special one for you today.

While many of the end-of-the-year lists include some major critical and commercial hits like GET OUT, DUNKIRK, BABY DRIVER and more, we should all pay special attention to the little movies that may have gotten lost in the shuffle, but still deserve notice nonetheless. That's why this list is dedicated to the movies that came and went at the box office without much of a flicker, as they hope to find an audience on video or digital. Those movies have not been forgotten, and now here is a list of movies that you should all check out, and if you already have, watch them again! Why would you only watch BRIGSBY BEAR once? Take a look at the selections below! 

*I left off movies still in theaters like LADY BIRD, SHAPE OF WATER, etc, as they still have opportunities to break out and gain loads more attention. Go see them!

Honorable Mention: Blade Runner 2049

The reason why I throw this sci-fi masterpiece in the “Honorable Mention” section is that, compared to the other movies on this list, this film was a box office behemoth. However, by the standards set on it by the Hollywood community, the movie was one of the bigger disappointments at the box office. It just didn’t click with the mainstream audiences. The slow pace, complex themes and general lack of chaotic action made it as much a meditative piece as its predecessor, which is always a hard sell. But the film was an absolute marvel of visual effects and cinematography, and director Denis Villeneuve achieved the goal of living up to the incredibly lofty heights set by the original. In fact, it accomplished the feat of being superior to the original in several ways. It’s a shame more people didn’t go see this film in the theater as it should be seen, but as it approaches its Blu-ray release (it's now available on digital platforms) it can, hopefully, be seen by an even greater audience.

18. Mayhem

MAYHEM is one of those indie, B-movie gems that make you run up to your nearest friend and scream, “Have you seen this movie?! It’s bananas! You have to see it!” You then call up all your friends, gather around the living room with some stale pizza and cheer at the excessive, relentless, chaotic violence. What makes it all the more exciting is the story of a man (Steven Yeun) and a woman (Samara Weaving) who have been cheated by the system taking it to the big wigs in what is a subtextual statement on economic and social frustrations. Okay, that’s over analyzing. What’s important to know is that MAYHEM is a delightfully gory piece of late-night cinema featuring some gleefully corny dialogue and full-tilt performances by Weaving and Yeun, who dive head-first into all the maulings and beatings.

17. Shot Caller

SHOT CALLER could’ve easily been a typical, bargain bin thriller about drugs and gangs where a man goes so deep into an organization that he can’t come back. Throw in a few shower-shanking scenes and racial tensions and you got yourself a midnight movie! But SHOT CALLER raises above many tropes of the genre and comes out a smart, intense, and poignant story about the nature of the prison system. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is terrific as Jacob, a totally normal man who is sent to jail for accidentally killing his friend in a car crash, and to survive in the clink has to join a gang, and comes out of the prison system and integrated criminal. A very real aspect of incarceration is depicted here, and it doesn’t shy away from grit or heavy thematic elements. It’s not a perfect film but is certainly more than worthy of your money, and one I would’ve like to see get wider exposure.

16. Detroit

Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal work very well together, having before collaborated on Oscar-winning films THE HURT LOCKER and ZERO DARK THIRTY. Their third feature together, DETROIT, had high hopes of living up to those same movies. On a purely cinematic level, they did a bang-up job, creating a taut, intense, timely, if not slightly overlong thriller about a relatively unknown event during the Civil Rights era. The film has all the trademarks of a Bigelow film, featuring a shooting style more closely-related to LOCKER, creating a visceral and challenging experience. But despite strong reviews and coming out during the quiet August month the movie failed to make an impact. Finishing at only $16 million at the box office, the movie was destined for big Oscar hopes but left theaters with a whimper. It’s a shame, because there’s some great work here from the cast, including John Boyega, Anthony Mackie and Jason Mitchell, with scene-stealing work from Will Poulter.

15. Colossal

What makes this movie as entertaining as it is stimulating is that it finds an incredibly quirky, inventive way of telling its story about a woman taking charge of her own life and overcoming abuse. Anne Hathaway gives a vibrant and sympathetic performance and Jason Sudeikis gets his most challenging work to date. The movie itself stays fresh by digging deeper and deeper into the characters and going places you didn't think it would. With rave reviews and clever premise, I thought this movie would be a much bigger hit. In the end it didn't even come close to making back its $15 million budget, bringing in only around $3-4 million. This film really is a unique little gem, and you should seek it out if you haven't already.

14. Free Fire

Going into 2017 FREE FIRE was looking like one of the coolest movies of the year, and it seemed destined to breakout as an indie hit, especially because of its all-star cast. Ben Wheatley crafted an exciting, brilliantly staged and lively action flick that works best because it creates excellent character dynamics going in, only to explode into gleeful chaos where anything could happen to anyone at any time. It’s incredibly accessible and an absolute bonkers way to spend 90 minutes. I don’t know why people didn’t bite. Maybe the 70s aesthetic made people think it was a campy B-movie, and thus paid for a  more accessible theater experience. B-movie thrills are sure there, but it’s a shame more unique period films like this don’t break out more often.

13. Mudbound

A Netflix import, MUDBOUND was a major player coming out of the festival circuit, all before being bought up by the streaming service. Here is a powerful, beautifully acted examination of race relations in a post-WWII Mississippi featuring one of the best casts of the year, and is as enlightening as it is challenging. Newcomer Dee Rees directs with a passionate and masterful touch, weaving together the storylines of one white family and one black family, two members from which (Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell) fought in the war and then form a bond by sharing their experiences and struggles. The movie is certainly a prestige picture, but because Netflix movies find their way to the bottom of the streaming barrel all too quickly, the movie probably hasn't gotten the kind of attention it deserves. Luckily Mary J. Blige is getting a lot of attention for her performance, but there are so many facets of this movie that demand attention and praise. 

12. It Comes At Night

Every year there seem to be one or two horror movies that are critically adored but that audiences turn against. IT COMES AT NIGHT is that film this year, a movie that earned rave reviews but was trashed by audiences (it has an 88% percent critic score and a 43% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes). This is a shame because director/writer Terry Edward Shults created a moody, terrifying and all around haunting movie with excellent work from the cast. Shifting from the normal motif of the “virus breakout” flick, NIGHT focuses on one family trying desperately to stay alive after the fallout of some sort of disease, only to test their boundaries when a new family needs their help. Oozing with paranoia and tension, IT COMES AT NIGHT is an expert horror flick that demands the audiences for their attention as the silence is filled with a subtle malice. Unfortunately, people are too picky about their horror movies and were probably put off by the lack of ghosts or demons possessing young girls in the movie. But for those who like their horror to go a bit deeper, you couldn’t have done much better this year than with IT COMES AT NIGHT.

11. Ingrid Goes West

Few movies have been able to capture the mentality of the social media-craved youth, and that undying, constant need to be liked and adored by total strangers. INGRID GOES WEST hit the nail on the head by telling the story of Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), a woman who so desperately needs to be liked by a social media star (Taylor Sloane, played by Elizabeth Olsen) that she uproots her life, moves to California, and begins to mimic and stalk Taylor. Obviously, this is incredibly creepy, but there is something human and relatable about Ingrid’s quest for approval. We all seek to be loved and often tailor ourselves to meet that need. Social media has unfortunately made things worse, and in Ingrid we see that personified in a very sympathetic way. Plaza gives the best performance of her career here, and hopefully, the movie goes on to be a bigger cult hit with millennials as they see some of themselves in her character. Hopefully not too much though.

10. Stronger

Now that Leonardo DiCaprio has his Oscar, I am stepping out into the battle zone and saying Jake Gyllenhaal is the greatest actor of his generation to not get the due he’s proper. The man is constantly dishing out tremendous work, and with STRONGER he takes it to a new level. He’s given eccentric performances recently, playing dark, esoteric characters, but here he proves he can play an average, blue-collar individual and still be able to capture the depth and a wide range of emotions. Here he plays Jeff Bauman, a man who achieved unexpected fame when he survived the Boston Marathon Bombings, but not without losing his legs. Unable to cope with the attention he sinks further into alcoholism, and while a Disney movie would focus on montages of his recovery, the film addresses his struggle to cope with the reality of what happened on that fateful day with an unflinching focus on the somber details of Bauman's life. On the receiving end of his behavior is his ex-girlfriend, Erin (Tatiana Maslany), who he was cheering on at the marathon. She’s dealing with her own emotional turmoil, while also having to take care of Jeff. Together Gyllenhaal and Maslany give two of the most underrated performances of the year, and their work and the movie itself should have gotten much more attention than it did. Sadly, it came out the same weekend as IT, which took away all its thunder, leaving theaters having only made $4 million. You know, a few Oscar nominations would more than make up for that slight.

9. Battle of the Sexes

Here was a movie that seemed destined for Oscar greatness, but sadly lost most of its thunder because of pure uninterest from the moviegoing public. SEXES tells the story of feminist and sports icon Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and how she defeated male tennis player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) in a one-on-one match and is one of the more interesting sports movies in recent memory. The movie has all the trimmings for a great, modern biopic, focusing on a phenomenal woman, and one that lives up to its potential thanks to Oscar-worthy work from Stone and Carell and a lively tone. The movie failed to generate any interest at the box office despite great reviews and timely subject matter, and for the life of me, I cannot understand why. Maybe because the movie was sold as a comedy more than a drama, even though it is a very sensitive, thematic movie with sprinkles of humor in it. But that doesn’t mean the movie isn’t easy to watch. Stone and Carell are so f**king good, and the script Simon Beaufoy captures the depth and humanity of both characters, while the direction from Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris gives is mature and poignant feel. People were probably just expecting something different, which is a shame.

8. Raw

Here is a movie that really tested me as an audience member. I have no problem with violence, and that includes grizzly slasher movies, unrelenting action movies or simply the occasional gleeful splatterfest. But RAW is filled with that intimate violence, the kind that is shot up close and with little apology for its realism. I found it hard to sit through because even though the movie is often lurid, its intoxicating in its grotesqueness. Telling a sort of coming-of-age story about womanhood, the story of Justine (Garance Marillier) as she descends from an innocent vegetarian into an unhinged meat eater (which becomes cannibalism), RAW is a dreamlike experience that’s as absorbing as it is cringe-worthy. Marillier is a tour-de-force as Justine and gives a committed performance that goes beyond her youth. She is absolutely fearless and sells the movie with expert dedication. Filled with plenty of symbolism and grand ideas, RAW is unforgettable horror experience that deals with incredibly complicated and emotional ideas and, like many foreign imports, went unnoticed in theaters. It's currently on Netflix, and you should be watching it now!

 7. Brawl in Cell Block 99

This movie is pure pulp, B-movie enjoyment, and made all the better for what is probably Vince Vaughn’s best performance to date. Vaughn plays Bradley Thomas a man who, after being sent to prison after a pick-up deal goes wrong, must find a way to get locked up in the worst jail around so as to kill a man, thus saving his wife on the outside.  Given his big size and ability to dish out/take a beating, Bradley does this by savagely, unrelentingly attacking his fellow inmates and guards, thus sending him deeper and deeper into the system. The brutality is there in heavy doses, and Vaughn gives his most vulnerable, fearless performance ever as the principled Bradley, who is the precise personification of a man who will do anything to save his wife an unborn child. Director S. Craig Zahler (BONE TOMAHAWK) is one of the most exciting voices in the B-movie game and directs the violence here with brutal precision. There is never a dull moment in this movie, which is equal parts character study and bloody thriller. There are few movies with the kind of impact CELL BLOCK has, and hopefully more people will seek it out, if not only to see Vaughn rip apart a car with his bare hands. He seriously does this, and it’s one of the single best scenes of the year.

6. Wind River

This movie did much better at the box office than some of the movies on the list, and thank god for that because WIND RIVER is a wallop of a movie. Gripping and unafraid to go to the places it needs to, WIND RIVER is a stirring directorial debut from Taylor Sheridan, who proves to be one of the most reliable, powerful new voices in Hollywood. Like his other movies, HELL OR HIGH WATER and SICARIO (which he wrote), Sheridan makes the setting an integral part of the story, in this case capturing the desolateness and brutality of the Wyoming landscape. Jeremy Renner turns in some his best work as Cory Lambert, an expert tracker and hunter who works with Elizabeth Olsen's FBI agent character (also a great performance) to find a young girl's killer, a story that draws attention to the greater issue of unsolved disappearances of Native American girls in America. The movie could’ve been too dark for its own good, but Sheridan injects a heavy amount of heart in the movie, creating a rollercoaster of emotion. Like I said, this movie did better than the other movies on this list, but it still deserves an even wider audience.

5. Brigsby Bear

I defy anyone out there to name one movie as clever, pure of heart, and suitably heartwarming, as BRIGSBY BEAR. Even the title makes you want to give the Blu-ray a great big hug. BEAR tells the story of a man, James (Kyle Mooney), who was kidnapped at a young age, and while living in a doomsday bunker was only shown a television show called “Brigsby Bear,” which we soon learn was made exclusively for James by his “Dad” (Mark Hamill). Though his real family wants him to move on from Brigsby, James unfaltering love for the character leads him on a quest to make a movie about the space bear, symbolizing the undying, innocent spirit of creativity most people lose come adulthood. Mooney is perfectly cast as James in a role that makes excellent use of his delicate, awkward but undeniably sweet charm, and the underlying theme speaks to anyone who has been driven to create thanks to any number of favorite shows or movies. Anyone can fall in love with this movie, and I challenge anyone out there to prove me wrong.

4. Logan Lucky

By all accounts, LOGAN LUCKY should’ve been a massive hit. Not only did it signify the return of director Steven Soderbergh, but it stands as one of his best movies yet, and easily his most accessible since the OCEAN’S movies. It’s funny, whip-smart and features a gang of terrific performances from Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Riley Keough, and especially spectacular work from Daniel Craig as Joe Bang, who exudes what I call “trailer park flair.” At its core, this is an incredibly unique heist flick that succeeds in large part thanks to the focus on the colorful, unglamorizing lead characters. Sadly, the movie didn’t quite hit the kinds of speeds we all hoped, and even Soderbergh has reflected on the movies social-media-heavy promotion as a bad call. But the movie is out on Blu-ray now, and everyone should rent it, or just save yourself some time and buy it now.

3. A Ghost Story

If you’re looking for a transcendent, dreamlike, bittersweet, metaphysical experience at the movies, you could’ve done no better this year than David Lowery’s A GHOST STORY. After M’s (Rooney Mara) husband (C, played by Casey Affleck) dies, she is left to deal with the turmoil of his sudden and tragic passing, which we witness through the eyes of the ghost of C himself. This is a minimalist, quiet, atmospheric, suitably haunting experience that forces you to examine life itself through a somber and ceaselessly absorbing lens. A GHOST STORY is truly an experience that demands your attention for many reasons, including the vivid and unique score by Daniel Hart.

2. The Lost City of Z

Much like IT COMES AT NIGHT and BATTLE OF THE SEXES, people going into LOST CITY OF Z were probably expecting something much different. They probably thought they would be seeing an exciting adventure movie with a cast of hot men (Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson and Tom Holland) dashing and jumping across the land. But what we got as something far more deliberate and meditative that uses the life of Percy Fawcett and his quest for the Lost City of Z as an examination of the spirit of adventure that has existed in man since the dawn of time. Not exactly an empty-headed, leave-your-brain-at-the-door action flick. Instead, it’s something more along the lines of Werner Herzog’s AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD, a comparison it earns without a second thought. Hunnam is fantastic in a reserved, complex performance as Fawcett that proves he’s meant for better movies that KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD, and the movie benefits from enrapturing visuals of the jungle landscape, given awe-inspiring life thanks to Darius Khondji’s cinematography, which deserves every award out there. LOST CITY OF Z is a character study that takes its subject and its audience into the heart of darkness, and it’s a stunning experience.

1. mother!

No movie caused more conversation when it came out than Darren Aronofsky’s MOTHER!, and the unfortunate thing is that did so with very few people actually seeing it. So many people were busy talking about it’s “F” Cinemascore that they forgot to actually go see this movie. If they had they would understand that the beauty of it is there is no way to walk away from the movie without talking about every facet of it. The performances, writing, production design, cinematography, and themes all demand to be discussed, for better or worse. You can call it a genius piece of work that sells its Biblical/environmental message with forceful, nightmarish mastery, or you can walk away saying it’s a pompous, overly symbolic exercise in artistic expression. No matter what you think about it, MOTHER! is an intense, surreal, challenging, brutal, beautiful and entirely unique cinematic experience. There is nothing like it out there, and it’s a jaw-dropping, astounding experience. People walked away from it angry because it was sold as a traditional horror, and that it is not. It is a movie that demands to be seen and dissected over time, and as the years go on I have no doubt it will be called a masterpiece. If you're still not sold, just go see it to watch Jennifer Lawrence doing some of her best work, featuring going apeshit on people with a shard of glass. 

 

Source: JoBlo

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