Rafael Motamayor lists the best movies that may have went under your radar this year…
2017 was a great year for movies, and you can’t convince me of the contrary! We had so many wonderful movies this year, that even thinking about the “best ones” has been nearly impossible. Even outside of the typical Oscar movies that end up on most critics’ lists (myself included), we’ve had a lot of good blockbusters compared to last year – and most if not all superhero movies this year have been great!
In the spirit of list-making season, I decided to write about some great movies that you probably missed this year. From Vince Vaughn crushing bones, to a horror-musical about mermaids, there’s something for everyone.
A struggling white-girl rapper is trying to escape her boring smalltown existence and becoming a star. A feel-good movie with a plot that may be too familiar for some, as it hits all the points you’d expect from a movie about an underdog overcoming all odds.
Do not be fooled by the familiar cover, for what matters is the way the story is presented. What makes Patti Cake$ such an entertaining film are the characters. Danielle Macdonald apparently had no rapping experience before taking on the roll, but you would never have guess that was true as she makes Patti come to life as if it was a role she lived with for years. Another standout is Siddharth Dhananjay as Patti’s musical partner, Jheri, who kills it with his humour and killer bars.
There are plenty of moments that may sound outlandish, but that’s part of what makes this movie so fun. It perfectly blends reality with dream-like sequences that feel like music videos. The best part of the movie is – unsurprisingly – the soundtrack. You owe it to yourself to see this movie with as big an audience as you possibly can, as it will no doubt end in vocal reactions to the musical performances, and you will wish The Academy would nominate the track “PBNJ” for an Oscar just so we can see them try to censor the song for a live performance.
Brawl in Cell Block 99
Vince Vaughn as you’ve never seen him before, as a former boxer turned drug mule named Bradley – he hates being called Brad. When a drug deal goes bad, Bradley is sent to prison, where his plans of quietly serving his sentence get violently and brutally interrupted by the always menacing Udo Kier. Instead of looking forward to an early release to reunite with his pregnant wife, Bradley gets dragged into the butal underground of the prison system and a world of violence, pain and crushed bones.
Directed by S. Craig Zahler, this movie looks gorgeous – once you look past the insane amount of blood, the Bone Tomahawk director pains the movie with a blue hue that makes the grittiness of the story and the violence stand out. Vince Vaughn gives maybe his best performance yet as an intimidating tough guy who isn’t afraid to stomp on a guy’s skull if the situation gets dire.
Though some viewers may be turned away because of it, Brawl in Cell Block 99 is like a musical of violence, with each punch and cracked bone meticulously choreographed for maximum impact and gruesomeness. This may very well be the most violent movie of the year, with most of the action filmed in wide shots so every punch, every skull stomped and every arm shattered feel as real as to almost make you sick, yet make you love the movie for it.
Imagine Aaron Sorkin made a heist film, only instead of a team of professionals trying to break into a bank vault – it is a group of teenagers trying to cheat on standardized tests. Lynn (supermodel-turned-actress Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying who is so talented it’s almost unfair) is a math prodigy with few friends. When she discovers she can easily help her friends get better grades while earning some money, she devises an elaborate exams-cheating system that will eventually lead to an intercontinental scheme.
I know what you’re thinking. “Standardized tests? That’s boring” and you couldn’t be more mistaken. Bad Genius is masterfully shot and edited in a way that would make Edgar Wright jealous. Every stroke of a pencil, every answer circle filled is shot to feel as tense as the cracking of a vault safe while the cops are circling in on the robbers. The stakes feel incredibly high because everyone, whether you have cheated on a test or not, can identify with the tension and excitement you feel while taking a test and looking over to see if the teacher is looking at you.
The performances are great and the chemistry between the students feels natural. Despite the film being tense to the point where I forgot how to breathe, it is also quite funny, as the high school kids still acts as kids and have a lot of fun with their newfound profitable scheme. Bad Genius also deals with some serious issues like class struggle and the corrupt school system of Thailand.
Remember that movie Locke with Tom Hardy? The one where one guys sits in a car for two hours and talks on the phone? What if you added the top-notch violence of Ryan Gosling’s Drive? Then you get Frank Grillo in Wheelman. A getaway driver (Grillo) picks up to thugs to pull a bank job, and right after he drops them off at their target, he gets a mysterious message instructing him to take the cash and leave the thugs behind. Our nameless driver then finds himself in a horrible situation when he gets double-crossed and his family gets threatened.
While we spend 90% of the film inside a car with Frank Grillo (not that there’s anything wrong with that), there’s enough going on to consider this an action thriller. The editing is razor sharp and the camera work keeps the car scenes more varied than I would have expected. This movie lives or dies by Grillo’s performance and oh boy, it certainly lives. Grillo sinks his teeth into his character, and proves he’s the next big action star. While there isn’t a lot of action in the movie, when it hits the fan it does with full strength. You want to have a doctor on hold, because your blood pressure will rise a lot during Wheelman.
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