2017 Movies: The great, good, bad, and ugly

Before I break into the good, bad, and ugly of the 2017 year in film, let me put this out there: this was an incredible year for the movies. I am talking about a versatile array of cinematic pleasures that ranged from the boldly adventureous (The Shape of Water) to the pulse-pounding thrills of music and car chases (Baby Driver) to a journalistic trail blaze (The Post).

Filmmakers didn’t have to rely on old tricks or recycle favors from decades before, instead exploring new ground with wide-eyed results (look at The Big Sick combining laughs and tears without forcing it). 2016 put out some fine films, but I felt like it got started very late and couldn’t hang with this year’s slate. Like a flashy looking car with a great engine, but a driver who can’t hang on the backroads or badlands of make-believe.

Let’s no waste anymore of your time, and get to the best and worst films of 2017. First, I will put out my top film of 2017 and then list the rest, before delving into the bottom of the barrel. Pour the coffee and let’s go.

THE BEST FILM OF 2017: THE POST

Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Meryl Streep got together and made a film that couldn’t be more timely or affecting. At a time where the free press are having their dignity trashed by a scared President, this drama covering the Washington Post’s uncovering of documents which linked the government’s negligent actions during the Vietnam War hits you in the head and in the heart. Streep blows a torch for powerful women with her portrayal of Katherine Graham, a woman thrust into a leadership role that she was ill-prepared for. She ended up owning the night and Nixon.

Spielberg takes Liz Hannah and Josh Singer’s wiz script, and doesn’t waste a second of your time, painting the war room at the paper like the beaches at Normandy, where writers and editors had to decide if the last voice in the room would belong to the President or the people. Similar to Spotlight, Spielberg’s tale is diabolical in its accuracy. He filmed this in less than a year, showing what you can do when an important idea possesses you. Hanks gives a bravura performance that we have come to expect, but don’t sleep on Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) or Sarah Paulson, This film gets better every time.

*Opens in St. Louis on Jan. 12, 2018 Continue reading “2017 Movies: The great, good, bad, and ugly”

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‘Land of Mine’ carries ‘Hurt Locker’ tension with its dark heart

Here is a story that you didn’t know and a follow-through that you didn’t see coming.

“If they are old enough to go to war, they are old enough to clean up their mess.”

For Sergeant Carl Rasmussen(Roland Moller), vengeance has grown on trees inside his soul due to the cost of war. It’s May in 1945, near the end of World War II, and the Germans have surrendered. But the war isn’t over for some people. When we first see Carl, he is fuming in his military jeep as he drives past German P.O.W., and the rage has taken over his body. He abruptly stops, beats up a couple prisoners, and screams at the others to get out. “This is my country,” Carl proclaims, and that is how the powerful Land of Mine begins.

The film was nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars this year, and I can tell you why: it is a striking piece of cinema that won’t let you go for days. I saw it five days ago, and I am still brushing the story off my conscience. Independent (especially foreign) displays a freedom that most American films simply can not on average, and this film is the latest example of its power. It’s in Danish and German subtitles, but the moral of the film never gets close to being lost.

Image result for Land of Mine review

Writer/director Martin Zandvliet casts a spotlight on the unknown fallout of WWII: the aftermath of the carnage and how certain countries committed tragic war crimes in order to rid their country of the weapons of the trade in the months following the surrender of Germany. The story centers on Rasmussen and the 14 German prisoners that are assigned under him to dig up land mines along the western Denmark coast line. There’s just one thing; the prisoners are young men, kids even. Continue reading “‘Land of Mine’ carries ‘Hurt Locker’ tension with its dark heart”