Your Guys Guide Spoiler-Free Movie Review Roundup for 2017

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Your Guys Guide Spoiler-Free Movie Review Roundup for 2017

by James Mandell

2017’s been a bumpy ride for film, but year-end releases are once again saving the day. As always, it’s my broadcast film critic wife Lisa who gets all the screeners and premier invites. I’m just her arm candy and thankfully, haven’t seen everything (for critics, it’s a full time job) but this is most of the stuff that matters, beckoning your popcorn money over the break.

Categorized and in alphabetical order

Your Annual Guys Guide Spoiler-Free Movie Review Roundup:

 Worth the Trip

Dunkirk review, valerian reviewDunkirk

Hans Zimmer’s searing score intensifies the plight of 300,000 British troops – virtually the entire Brit army – pushed by the vastly overpowering German war machine into a corner on a French beach across the channel from home, awaiting either rescue or slaughter. It succeeds in imparting the hopelessness of the moment, meeting the cigar-chomping resolve of the new PM.

 

 

I, Tonya

Entertaining for its outrageousness, and yup, it’s a whole movie about banging America’s Sweetheart Nancy Kerregin’s finely toned ice skating shin. A trailer trash parade of clueless bumblers, presented in clever quasi-documentary style, as told by Tonya, cleverly interpreted by Margot Robbie, with outrageous mom histrionics from Allison Janey.

 

 

Molly’s Game

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, Jessica Chastain plays a private super-chill sky-high-stakes poker game host, catering to rich gamblers in $5000-a-night hotel suites, then dealing with the inevitable down-sides. An intellectual romp that’s hold-on-to-your hat cool, peppered with high-speed dialogue and a great cast including Idris Elba, Jeremy Strong and Kevin Costner.

 

 

Phantom Thread

Daniel Day Lewis stars in this intensely gentle Paul Thomas Anderson film about an obsessively successful European fashion designer who gives no quarter. Mesmerizing for the Project Runway set, it features a first date encounter like no other and artistically imparts a grandiosity of purpose with quirkily surprising detail and artistry.

 

 

Roman j israel esq reviewRoman J. Israel, Esq

The reliably remarkable Denzel Washington portrays a gifted, socially bereft civil rights attorney whose behind-the-scenes researcher career is suddenly altered, forcing him to step out of the shadows and into an unaccustomed brand of  sunshine. A thoughtful, intelligent, heartfelt yet gripping story, powerfully told.

 

 

 

The Shape of Water

A quirkily modern R-rated fable that tells a beautifully staged story filled with clichéd characters stuffed with modern emotions as they encounter a bit of magic that changes everything. A kid movie for adults, it confounds, entertains and frustrates, leaving a trail of lovely moments in its wake.

 

 

 

Star Wars: The Last JediTHE LAST JEDI Review

Combine old-fashioned story telling, beloved characters and swashbuckling adventure tech and you get the simply terrific, best film of the year. Thrilling, surprising, gorgeous, often funny and always enthralling, certainly the best Star Wars in a generation, it’s packed with everything you could ask for and the heart and soul to slam the story forward. You won’t want it to end and gloriously, it doesn’t for more than two and a half hours.

The first $2 billion box office movie? Could be…

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Francis McDormand brings her unique touch to this densely packed small town story of a woman who’s been dealt a rotten hand. She’s not going to settle for that, petitioning the growing-in-greatness Woody Harrelson, the town sheriff, for satisfaction. Cohen Brothers-style writing and direction from Martin McDonagh make this violent tale winningly entertaining.

 

 

Wonder Woman

An uncommonly great super-hero flick from a thoroughly female perspective, and boy does it deliver. Here for once, is a neurosis-free treatise on determination, vision and love, fiercely illuminated and winningly served.  Gal Gadot re-defines the earnestness of the role and Chris Pine is perfectly cast as her unwitting partner.

 

Your Annual Guys Guide Spoiler-Free Movie Review Roundup:

Buy Kids Tix

Wonder

wonder reviewTen year old Jacob Tremblay plays a kid born with a deformed face, that despite multiple operations, shocks and repels most who see him. After years of hiding and home-schooling by his middle-class Julia Roberts mom in their pleasant $8 million brownstone in NYC, it’s time to matriculate into the real world.

With a manipulative script and people so humanely drawn, you wish you lived in their town too, doggonit, the emotion is surprisingly real, the messages meaningful. A sweetly provocative film for the whole family.

 

Coco

A Latin culture primer bursting with color, detail and charged up characters, it’s the story of a boy who’s got to break free of his controlling family if he is to pursue his dream of becoming a performing musician, just like his black sheep granddaddy used to be. Lacks the sophistication of the best Pixar predecessors, but still a satisfying destination for family night.

 

 

Your Annual Guys Guide Spoiler-Free Holiday Movie Roundup:

Also Vying for Your Attention

the big sick reviewThe Big Sick

Kurmail Nanjiani (from the droll HBO comedy series Silicon Valley) plays himself in this auto-biographical low-budget indie, a struggling comic who backs into the love of his life after a stint on a comedy club stage. Challenges ensue as they stumble into finding their way.

 

 

 

call me by your name reviewCall Me by Your Name

This year’s major LGBTQ feature, it’s as smart as it is controversial. For provocative and timely insight, please see Lisa Johnson Mandell’s review here.

 

 

 

 

darkest hour reviewDarkest Hour

Gary Oldman plays old man Churchill, in a flick which could be the Part One of a mini-series, leading next to the film Dunkirk from earlier this year. The entire British army is surrounded and about to be slaughtered by the Germans, with no discernible way out, save suing for surrender. Quite the moment, as Winston contemplates the overwhelm.

 

 

The Disaster Artist ReviewThe Disaster Artist

If you’ve seen the cult film “The Room” chances are you’ll love this film. Otherwise, I found it an ineptly made movie about the making of an ineptly made movie, and that’s the problem. In order to entertain, ONE of the two has to be smart, and both fail at that. From my Boomer POV, I was shocked it was supposed to be a comedy. Millennial humor? Beats me…

 

 

Downsizing

After originally casting Paul Giamatti, Matt Damon unfortunately takes his place in this absurd parable about choosing to shrink oneself and live in a controlled city of 5-inch people, the better to save Earth and live cheap, replete with everything in miniature from the normal world. Which among other things, is a tech problem I couldn’t shake. From Starbucks to Wolf stoves, computer systems and perfect clothing, all is  1/20th scale.  Uh-huh. Spent the rest of the time fretting over the possible appearance of a giant foot… yiiiiiiii, the Giant Foot!

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Annette Bening in an unflinching bio-pic chronicling the last months of forgotten 1940’s film star Gloria Grahame, a sexy vamp fighting cancer who seduces Jamie Bell, 30 years her junior. There’s so much denial to puzzle here, it’s hard to justify the whole story.

 

 

 

The Florida Project

A group of last-chance family 5-10 year old kids work up their delinquent skills as they bounce around seedy motel apartments in the shadow of Orlando’s Disney World. The parade of losers plays like a meth documentary, and the kids are witness to all. Maybe something good happens in the third act — couldn’t watch it to the end.

 

 

Get Out

Daniel Kaluuya leads a strong ensemble in an original story about interracial love, as Allison Williams, his serious girlfriend, takes him on a country drive to meet her family. Once there, unexpected incidents get too numerous, which brings out the true character of this low-key thriller. Clever and provocative, it may keep you guessing.

 

 

Hero

Starring ultimate cowboy Sam Elliot, a painfully intimate dive into aging, looking death in the eye, and getting a face-full of truth from a decades-younger lover. Quiet and contemplative, it’s provocatively emotional. Just don’t expect any shootouts.

 

 

 

Spoiler-Free Movie Review

Lady Bird

Sweet coming of age flick about a strong-willed girl breaking free of her controlling mother. Some calling it the best of the year. I’m thinking wine, cheese and crackers on the couch with your woman appreciating you for watching the one she wanted to see… when it’s streaming in March.

 

 

 

Spoiler-Free Movie ReviewLast Flag Flying

Touching but slow-paced story of three Viet Nam Marine buddies reunited 35 years later when one of their sons is killed in Iraq. Feels a little forced and chockablock with psych 101 conundrums. Stars Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Lawrence Fishburne.

 

 

 

Spoiler-Free Movie ReviewThe Meyerwitz Stories (New and Selected)

Your typical East Coast neurotic Jewish family piece, with Dustin Hoffman playing the self-absorbed artist and Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler as his anguished sons. Will they all find a sense of purpose? Oh, sweet pain…

 

 

 

Spoiler-Free Movie Review wonder reviewWonder Wheel

Always an appreciative Woody Allen fan, I’ve followed his .650 batting average for 40 years. This woeful, doleful and miscast swing and miss features beauty shots of Coney Island on its decline into seediness, as a struggling ’50’s family deals with failed lives and loves, suffering relentlessly along with the remainder of the theater audience.

 

 

 

Get times and tickets for all the films mentioned in the annual guys guide spoiler-free movie review round-up at Fandango.com.

Your Annual Guys Guide Spoiler-Free Movie Review Roundup

by James Mandell

Every year about this time, James Mandell gives a spoiler-free movie review roundup, holding forth on which films are fine and which films are fatal.

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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.

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