The 10 Most Surprisingly Good Movies of 2017 (So Far)
This might be a controversial statement, but Life may be a better Alien movie than Alien: Covenant. It’s not necessarily a better movie, but it gives people the claustrophobic sci-fi horror that was unfortunately lacking in Scott’s latest installment. Life never tries to be some kind of thought-provoking science fiction masterpiece. It just wants to thrill the audience, and it absolutely succeeds.
Trailers for Life painted it as a by-the-numbers alien horror movie. The trailers were right. There’s nothing all that groundbreaking about the film. There are certain types of movies that desperately need creativity to succeed. For example, movies in crowded genres notoriously suffer from sticking to close to a formula. Luckily, we don’t get a whole lot of scary alien flicks, so Life is easily forgiven. Thanks to genuine scares, a terrific cast, and a terrifying little extraterrestrial, this movie manages to consistently surprise its viewers.
It borrows a lot from similar movies, but it’s too damn enjoyable to genuinely dislike. Ridley Scott is doing his own thing with the Alien franchise at this point. In a lot of ways, his new take on the series is exciting. However, there are so many people who just want the old fashioned thrills that the original Alien offered. Life has what it takes to fit that criteria.
Colossal is another one of those movies that didn’t look outright terrible, but its potential remained questionable. It had a cool premise and great cast. On the flip side, director Nacho Vigalondo had been putting out a string of stinkers leading up to this film’s release. Furthermore, the admittedly interesting premise risked being too weird for its own good. Movies that are strange for the sake of strange hardly earn a positive critical response. They’re usually deemed pretentious and immediately forgotten about. With that in mind, it was hard to really figure out how Colossal would turn out. The lack of hype prior to release certainly didn’t help things.
It turns out that Colossal is actually just as weird as it looks. The good news is that it’s never too weird. It’s pretty much the perfect amount actually. The narrative itself is straightforward enough to easily sit back and enjoy, but the actual setup makes the movie a unique experience to sit through. The idea of mixing mental illness and giant monsters is just crazy enough to work, and the decision to put people in control of giant kaiju monsters against their will makes things even more fascinating. The movie also does a terrific job of balancing various tones. It’s too silly to be some sort of grim drama, but it tackles tough issues like addiction and mental illness when it really needs to. This of course is in between moments of pitch black comedy.
The real standout is Jason Sudeikis. It’s not like he’s ever proven himself to be a bad actor. In fact, he’s always very likeable in his roles. However, his dramatic experience is fairly limited. Sudeikis’s ability to play things straight is both admirable and praiseworthy. He may be starring alongside an Oscar winner, but he never feels like he’s falling behind. In fact, he commands attention every time he pops up on screen.
Colossal might be too weird for some people, but it’s still surprisingly approachable. More importantly, it’s both thought-provoking and entertaining. It takes on big themes while showing off giant monster fight scenes in between. Kong: Skull Island may be more of an entertaining action movie, but Colossal is definitely more intelligent. It’s not going to win any Oscars, but it’s amazing to see just how much there is to like about this little indie movie.
3. Kong: Skull Island
Kong: Skull Island never looked outright bad, but there were some troubling warning signs that prevented prospective viewers from getting too excited. Despite the positive critical response, Godzilla actually disappointed a lot of casual filmgoers due to its cardboard characters and slow pacing.
Whether the Godzilla hate was warranted or not is up for debate, but it still led people to question the future of the shared monster universe. That’s not the only thing that had people concerned though. Jordan Vogt-Roberts lack of blockbuster experience didn’t necessarily mean he would fail, but it’s always a gamble to see indie directors take on big budget movies. Patty Jenkins may have knocked it out of the park with Wonder Woman, but people like Michel Gondry and Chris Weitz couldn’t recapture the magic of their earlier efforts.
In reality, the relative success of Kong: Skull Island is probably the least surprising of any of the movies listed. As stated, it didn’t look bad as much as it looked somewhat risky. Rotten Tomatoes predictions were all over the place prior to release because there was so much to consider. After all, the film’s success would have a lot of impact on the MonsterVerse. The massive budget essentially meant that there was little room for failure.
The second movie in the MonsterVerse was not a smart blockbuster, but it was an entertaining way to spend two hours. Many of the common complaints regarding Godzilla were nowhere to be found in Kong. Despite the massive cast, the characters all had distinct personalities that allowed them to stand out alongside the massive monster. Godzilla’s pacing was both lauded and criticized.
Some likened it to Jaws or Alien, while others found it to be completely uncharacteristic of what a Godzilla film should be. Kong: Skull Island doesn’t waste any time. The behemoth monster jumps out shortly after the movie begins, and he doesn’t disappear anytime soon. Those looking for an action-packed monster movie should be pleased.
Just because it’s different than Godzilla doesn’t mean it’s a good movie. The A-list cast, beautiful visuals, and jaw dropping action scenes are what make it a good movie. It’s a bit empty-headed and it’s far from original, but it’s the kind of balls-to-the-walls action flick that’s hard to pass up.
2. Wonder Woman
Prior to Wonder Woman, the DC Extended Universe was facing something of a crisis. Zero of the three DC movies released earned critical praise. In fact, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were outright panned by critics. Choppy editing, poor writing, and zero character development plagued two movies that otherwise had potential. In other words, it appeared DC’s attempt to create a film universe was falling to pieces. It was hard to point fingers, but rumors of producer meddling had fans worried that future films in the universe were doomed as well.
Then came a little movie called Wonder Woman. Patty Jenkins and crew pulled off a miracle. Not only was it a step up from the previous movies in the universe, it was a step up compared to most superhero flicks. With all the comparisons to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s a relief we finally have a movie that can truly compete. Wonder Woman is a fierce action masterpiece with a stellar lead performance. Gadot is enough to make the movie, but we’re lucky enough to have a skilled director and an exciting script as well. Basically everything clicks in Wonder Woman.
The script takes everything that works in the Wonder Woman comics and sprinkles in plenty of modern changes in order to make the film feel fresh. It’s a perfect way to introduce newbies to the character, but it’s also a faithful and fun adaptation of the hugely popular DC property. The cast and crew have done everything possible to do this character justice. After Suicide Squad, that’s one enormous breath of fresh air.
Wonder Woman isn’t perfect. Like most recent superhero movies, the villain is a generic CGI bore. Additionally, bits and pieces feel frustratingly formulaic. Still, these are minor problems when you look at everything Wonder Woman does right. It’s the first female superhero movie that actually gives viewers hope for the future. Sure, it’s gonna take a while to forget about Elektra and Catwoman, but Wonder Woman is a marvelous start.
1. Get Out
It’s not a huge surprise that Get Out turned out to be a good movie. Rather, it’s a surprise that Get Out happens to be one of the best horror movies of the decade and one of the best overall movies of the year. All signs pointed to Get Out being a solid horror movie. Jordan Peele is a smart guy, the trailers were fascinating, and the writing seemed to be pretty clever. The movie makes it on the list instead because nobody could have predicted it would be as incredible as it was. Get Out is a horror masterpiece that rivals competitors like It Follows, The Babadook, and The Witch.
It would be one thing if it was simply a scary horror flick. We lucked out by getting a brilliant social commentary with incredible acting and a surprising amount of laughs. Get Out defies genre conventions. Purely labeling it a horror movie would be doing it no justice. It’s simply so much more than it appears. The film is so layered that it takes countless rewatches to catch all the subtle “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” moments. Peele and crew weren’t just trying to make your skin crawl. They wanted to put your brain to work.
Get Out never wastes a second. Every moment feels essential. Scenes that feel like filler are later revealed to serve an important purpose in the grand scheme of things. With so many similar movies striving only to scare the audience, it’s such a relief to see a film that wants to leave more of an impression. It provides so much within its runtime that it’s no wonder people have to rewatch it.
With a 99% Rotten Tomatoes score, Get Out is one of the best reviewed movies of the year for good reason. It does so much to set itself apart from its appear. When it looks like it’s going to succumb to genre clichés, it quickly reassures the audience that it has plenty of tricks up its sleeve. This isn’t just a movie for horror fans. It’s a movie for everyone. Regardless of political stance, race, or movie preference, this film has something for you. It simply can’t be missed.
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