February 2017 Recap: The Best

movie reviews best movies february 2017Now that you know which films did the least for me last month, here are the ones I’m most eager to visit again.

John Wick (and John Wick: Chapter 2) (2014/7)
Directed by Chad Stahelski

I put off watching John Wick for a while, simply because I didn’t expect too much from it. As it turns out, that was rather silly of me.

John Wick = A DAMN GOOD TIME AT THE MOVIES. Of the two, I have a slight preference for the first one, largely because I was so pleasantly (and repeatedly) surprised while watching it. The action is fun, intense, and well-choreographed. Keanu is Keanu. The films have guns, great suits, and a sexy night club aesthetic. There’s no forced romance. No time to fuck around. Just well-crafted and supremely entertaining action film-making.

Another aspect of John Wick that sets it apart is its world-building. The universe that the films occupy is somewhere between fantasy and reality and is both distinct (to an extent) and rule-bound (so that it’s coherent). Additionally, Stahelski  and the films don’t fall into the trap of taking themselves too seriously. John Wick would be outright ridiculous (and a lot less fun) without a sense of humor; luckily, we don’t have to worry about that.

Bond who?

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Directed by Roman Polanski

I dig this movie. I dig the various levels it works on. I dig it as a horror film, as a cynical mediation on society, as an exposé of the struggles of women, as a witch-mystery… take your pick.

For all the suffering that Rosemary endures, Polanski continually infuses (black) humor into this. And where today’s worst horror films lack characters entirely, Rosemary’s Baby is brimming with them. Not only does this enhance the “reality” (and thus, the horror) of it, it also renders it much more entertaining than some of its genre counterparts. Characters or no characters, it certainly delivers on craft and sheer intelligence as well…

It wouldn’t be unfair to call this one “slow-burning,” but it’s engrossing for majority of its substantial run time and, more importantly, its final pay off is far better than most. In fact, the final scene stands out as among one of the best endings I’ve experienced in quite a while. It’s tonally disarming, and it’s all the more unsettling precisely because of just how much Polanski withholds.

My god, are Mia Farrow’s cheekbones something else…

The Searchers (1956)
Directed by John Ford

SUCH A GOOD TIME AT THE MOVIES

The Searchers is neither perfect nor beyond reproach, but it is great.

There are so many wonderful, precisely-etched characters in this. So many memorable moments. So many lovely shots. The Searchers is his is a whole lot of movie for 2 hours. At times, it seems to overflow its own bounds (in a good way!).

Also, why didn’t anyone ever tell me just how funny this is? For all the serious drama and the heavier issues (you know, like murder and racism), there is a great deal of clever, downright hilarious writing here. There’s also a good deal of nuance, some of which may have been effaced by misreadings over the years.

While watching this, I experienced quite a few moments where I felt like I’d seen the film before. Surely this speaks to just how much influence it has had on subsequent works.

The Searchers is one of two films I’ve recently watched starring John Wayne, and it’s nice to finally see what all the fuss is about. He reminds me a bit of some of my older relatives; and so far, I have found it hard not to enjoy his onscreen presence…

Lol this is my first John Ford

The Hidden Fortress (1958)
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

This is only the second Kurosawa I’ve seen, and while it didn’t shake me nearly as much as as Rashomon, I still enjoyed it a great deal.

Overall, this feels much more contemporary than one might expect. Even if the two comedic-relief-peasants don’t hold up especially well, The Hidden Fortress remains undeniably impressive. Plus, Toshirô Mifune is A++.

A big visual feast, but one that exists on a smaller, more personal scale than its setting and images might indicate.

It is,—here I go again—A GOOD TIME AT THE MOVIES.

Time to watch more Kurosawa…

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)
Directed by Macon Blair

While it doesn’t boast the same level of sheer craft as the other films included here  Macon Blair’s directorial debut still deserves a shout-out. As a fan of both Blue Ruin and Green Room, I was  excited to watch this after hearing about its premiere at Sundance, and it did not disappoint.

There are a lot of really great, really hilarious lines in this. Laugh-out-loud stuff. A lot of fun. Elijah Wood and Melanie Lynskey are both delightful and they each play their quirky, offbeat, down-to-earth characters well, and with just enough humor for Blair’s script. They also provide this quick, crazy film with a much-needed emotional center.

You can see and feel traces of what appear to be Jeremy Saulnier’s influence here, but there’s also a wild abandon and an outlandish humor that’s not nearly as present in Blue Ruin or Green Room. Blair plays with tone and viewer expectations a great deal. Not only does he appreciate both black humor and explicit violence, but he also leaves room for affecting interpersonal drama. The films takes a number of hard turns, but it never goes completely off the rails.

There’s a lot going on in I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore, and some of it is a bit too rough around the edges; at times, clumsiness creeps in, and it’s all too easy remember that Blair is new to this kind of directing. That said, the film remains a great deal of fun, and it’s a bold, promising first feature.

Until Next Time
March is well  underway, and I’ve already met a number of films. So far, my personal favorite are  Five Easy Pieces (1970) and Logan (2017). Stay tuned to see if that changes….

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Worst of February
Best of January
Worst of January

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