20 Great Movies From 2017 You May Have Missed

7. In the Fade

In the Fade

German-American actress Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) gives a bravura performance in writer-director Fatih Akin’s occasionally conventional but always compelling revenge-rattled In the Fade. Broken down into three chapters (titled; Family, Justice, and the Sea), the film moves with ferocity from a heart-crushing tragedy to a gaunt, sweeping, teeth-bared revenge thriller.

Katja (Kruger) and her Kurdish husband Nuri Şekerci (Numan Acar) live a charmed life, and one that’s blessed by an adorable six-year-old son Rocco (Rafael Santana). But tragedy rears its heartless head when two neo-Nazi sympathizers, Edda (Hanna Hilsdorf) and her husband André Möller (Ulrich Friedrich Brandhoff) detonate a homemade nail bomb in front of the translation and tax office where Nuri works. Not only does the incendiary device level Nuri’s business, it claims his and Rocco’s lives, sending Katja into a grief-stricken spiral that comes terribly close to killing her via paralyzing heartbreak and self-harm.

In the Faden soon finds Katja in full-on animus, going measure for measure against the neo-Nazi perpetrators who ruined her life and it’s a shrill ride that will have you writhing and awaiting not just for some fist-pumping reprisal, but also for sanctuary.

Eerie, incensing, and well-timed, In the Fade ranks as one of Akin’s best films.


6. Blade of the Immortal

No hyperbole here, Blade of the Immortal is the unremittingly prolific Takashi Miike’s 100th picture. This blood-splattered tale, based on the manga series by Samura Hiroaki, follows Manji (Kimura Takuya), a samurai infested with sacred bloodworms that condemn him to everlasting life.

This brutal, brilliant, supernatural samurai picture is the perfect fit for Miike’s genre-switchin’, sword-swingin’ decorum. Sure, it’s often outlandish and occasionally nauseating in its endless orgy of blood-saturated landscapes, decimated dojos, artfully arranged, and oh-so-bloodied battlefields, but at the same time it’s a deliberately over-the-top and overrich reception.

Miike and his DP du jour Kita Nobuyasu begin this nerve-rattling tale in a marvellous monochrome and then, at the moment of Manji’s immortality it explodes into color. Avoiding unnecessary crane shots and overcooked clichés like wire-fighting for long take mayhem with surprisingly gifted actors and incredible fight choreography, Blade of the Immortal is another feather in Miike’s diverse, impressive and varied body of work.


5. Girls Trip

Tiffany Haddish, front and center where she should be, delivers the funniest performance of the year in the energetic, New Orleans-set comedy from director Malcolm D. Lee, Girls Trip. On the surface, it looks like Lee and screenwriters Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver have fashioned a familiar female Hangover, a raunchy comedy with feelgood aspirations and a zany set piece or two. But Barris and Oliver are better than that, and with a game cast, particularly the aforementioned Haddish, this is the funniest Hollywood studio comedy in many a tipsy, tired moon.

The plot involves four college besties (Haddish, Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, and Jada Pinkett Smith) who reunite for a trip to the Big Easy, where they plan to take in the Essence Festival and hopefully rekindle their dwindling youthful rapture, get down on the dance floor, get a good jag on, get laid, bury a few hatchets and reconnect with their former selves while they’re at it.

“While there’s still plenty of time worn clichés in Girls Trip, there is a genuine sense of friendship, and comedy throughout,” details CinemaBlend’s Mike Reyes, adding: “You can believe that these four women are the best of friends, which is something that’s not always easy or focused on in a comedy of this type. Girls Trip has an energy that’s undeniable.”

Haddish is the star attraction here, though all of the cast get to land numerous laughs via the film’s numerous comic set pieces. This is laugh out loud stuff that you’ll be chortling over and quoting for some time.


4. Beach Rats

Beach Rats

Teen ennui on the outer edges of Brooklyn is artfully arranged and tangibly brought to life in Eliza Hittman’s Beach Rats.

Frankie (Harris Dickinson) is having a bummer of a summer what with his dad on his deathbed and his distracted mother deep in denial, it’s no wonder the lonely, lovelorn young man finds escape and considerable trouble with his delinquent pals and his potentially dangerous hobby of flirting with much older men online.

The immediate comparisons that Beach Rats summons is with Claire Denis’ Beau Travail (1999) or the more recent film from Barry Jenkins, Moonlight (2016), and there is certainly a thematic as well as visual through-line that connects these films. But Hittman also evokes the subjective eye of Robert Bresson and a clear-eyed ecstasy that’s all her own.

Favored with powerful performances and Hittman’s clarity of vision, Beach Rats is an often delicate and almost surreal distraction. Don’t miss it.


3. Bodied


Battle rapping is an artistically brutal mental minefield in director Joseph Kahn’s (Detention) satirical celebration of phat beats, sick rhymes, racism, white privilege and more in Bodied. Getting the most from a smart script by Toronto rapper Kid Twist (aka Alex Larsen), this is a movie that bravely celebrates pop culture as Bodied follows Adam (Calum Worthy), a white grad student who accesses a community of diverse and often churlish battler rappers, all to benefit his “edgy” thesis. And wouldn’t you know it, Adam soon finds his own voice for tossing around barbed rhymed epithets and insults.

Kahn’s knack for visual storytelling smarts helps makes this dangerous entertainment come alive, and the provocative, confrontational and subversive subject matter is cutting; one moment you’re laughing, the next you’re gasping, and the whole time you’re mind just reels.

An absolute conversation starter, and a startlingly woke experience, Bodied is destined for adoration, notoriety, and cult stature.


2. Wind River

Wind River is a character-driven neo-Western thriller from writer-director Taylor Sheridan (screenwriter of Sicario and Hell or High Water) and deserves plaudits for addressing a very real, and very ignored problem plaguing North America’s First Nations population; sexual assault of women on reservations.

Unfolding in the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a wildlife officer who finds the frozen body of an 18-year-old woman, Natalie Hanson (Kelsey Chow). Her autopsy reveals that she was raped and that’s when FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is sent to conduct the investigation.

Somber, often serene, and heartbreaking throughout, Sheridan’s efforts in exposing injustices meted out towards at risk members of the American populace yields with it many upsetting and startling social ramifications. It’s also refreshing to see a largely indigenous and extremely talented cast (Graham Greene, Apesanahkwat, Tantoo Cardinal, Gerald Tokala Clifford, and Martin Sensmeier amongst them).

The fitfully chilling score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis adds to the mounting dread, the climax, when it lands, is edge-of-your-seat, holy-shit-this-isn’t-going-to-end-well-for-many fare, and I know for myself, some of the subject matter hit very close to home, adding additional resonance. A risky, unafraid, and unflinching film with intensity, upset and squeam, Sheridan’s debut as director is one of promise and virtue.


1. Brawl in Cell Block 99

Writer-director S. Craig Zahler follows Bone Tomahawk (2015) with a harrowing slice of prison panic, trepidation, and ultra-violence as Vince Vaughn, Don Johnson and Udo Kier do the jailhouse rock.

“[Rumble in Cell Block 99] really moves into another dimension, one of spectacular violence among other things, when Udo Kier shows up. Those of you who know the German actor know he’s not the kind of guy who generally shows up in a Vince Vaughn movie. It’s weird. On purpose… it’s an American film that’s daring in potentially alienating ways,” wrote the celebrated film critic Glenn Kenny, adding that “I was not alienated myself but rather disturbed and delighted, and rather in awe of many of its features.”

Ex-boxer Bradley (Vaughn) is in a downward spiral. His marriage is floundering and an unwise stint as a drug courier sends him to the big house where things are gonna get even grittier and far more gruesome.

Zahler and cinematographer Benji Bakshi use an effectively restrained style with repeated fixed-camera set ups, and artful widescreen tableau that makes many of the instances of skull-crushing brutality all the more visceral. This is a genre film, after all, and one that delights in the pulpy, exploitation grindhouse. And while it paints in crimson red some familiar scenarios, it never loses a love of dark humor and audacity. Is it for everyone? Hell no.

Now something of a renaissance man, Zahler’s latest is full of old-school pleasures from the soul-soaked soundtrack (he wrote the suitably retro score along with Jeff Herriott), smart dialogue, excessive violence, and a bravura performance from Vaughn (I bet many of you forgot how charismatic he can be, haven’t you?). The ultimate midnight movie experience, miss this film at your own peril.

Honorable Mention:

All These Sleepless Nights (directed by Michal Marczak), Beatriz at Dinner (directed by Miguel Arteta), Goon: Last of the Enforcers (directed by Jay Baruchel), I am Not a Witch (directed by Rungano Nyoni), I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (directed by Macon Blair), Ingrid Goes West (directed by Matt Spicer), Let the Sunshine In (directed by Claire Denis), Meditation Park (directed by Mina Shum), No’i (directed by Aline Magrez), On Body and Soul (directed by Ildikó Enyedi), Western (directed by Valeska Grisebach), Zama (directed by Lucrecia Martel).

Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.