The 2017 Enthuse Film Catch-Up Extravaganza!

Now that summer is finally over, and the transition to Awards Season has officially begun, we at Enthuse have noticed that some of this year’s most buzzed about films have gone… well… unnoticed. In order to rectify that, we have come together to take a look back at some of 2017’s biggest hits, as well as some of its biggest misses, that we never got a chance to cover before!

All Eyez on Me
By Lucas Kowalik

With the success of Straight Outta Compton, a Tupac biopic was inevitable, but unfortunately this take on the legendary rapper’s life is a steaming pile of shit. This can be largely credited to the director Benny Boom, who prior to this mostly worked on music videos, along with directing a couple of films that went straight to video (Next Day Air, S.W.A.T.: Firefight). Boom really does manage to make All Eyez On Me feel like a music video in the worst possible way, with an incoherent narrative, underdeveloped characters, and an overall cheesiness that plagues the film.

Apart from the numerous historical inaccuracies, another glaring issue is the casting. Despite Tupac being written as a bratty and immature child as opposed to the strong and complex man he really was, Demetrius Shipp Jr. does give a passable performance in the role. However, the worst casting is found in the numerous supporting characters, who unfortunately are not played by the same actors as they were in Straight Outta Compton. Snoop Dogg’s casting is laughable, while Dr. Dre’s is almost as bad. Of the supporting cast, the worst and most offensive performance comes from Jamal Woolard as Biggie Smalls. Despite portraying him in the biopic Notorious nearly a decade ago, Woolard portrays Biggie as if a friend of a friend of the actor poorly described him in conversation once.

Things aren’t looking good for this hypothetical “Hip-Hop-Biopic-Verse” as All Eyez on Me has been a critical, commercial, and cultural failure. Rather than tell a compelling story that portrays one of rap’s most interesting icons, Benny Boom instead decides to drag the viewer with him on his Memberberry-induced stumble throughout history, muddling the line between fact and fiction as necessary. It’s not even worth pirating since you can learn more about the legacy that Tupac left behind from a brief skim of his Wikipedia page.

Grade: F

Annabelle: Creation
By Chris Ranta

Despite being a fairly big improvement over its terrible predecessor, Annabelle: Creation still has too many issues of its own to really stand out as a great piece of horror. It’s a boring film that feels as if it moves at a snail’s pace because the plot doesn’t really go anywhere until the final act of the film. What’s even worse is that none of the characters are really all that interesting because they have no personalities.

The titular villain is also not that menacing at all because nothing about the doll is left to the imagination. What makes films like Halloween or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre work so well is that certain things are left to the imagination, or at the very least are implied for us to figure out on our own. To the film’s credit, it does initially try to imply a lot of backstory for the Annabelle doll. With the exception of the opening scene explaining that the Mullins’ daughter was killed in a tragic accident, everything else about how her spirit was transferred into the doll and how it became evil is first implied through visual means for us to figure out. However, that doesn’t last long because in the third act, we get a very long monologue of exposition explaining everything they left for the audience to figure out, therefore insulting our intelligence and leaving nothing to the imagination.

What makes the experience even worse is that the film solely consists of lazy jump scares that are never warranted because we don’t care about the characters or the villain, and we know way too much. Sure, the film is at least competently made and none of the scares are laughable like the spooky stove top popcorn scene in the first film, but the problems that plague Annabelle: Creation make it an incredibly uninteresting film.

Grade: C-

Baby Driver
By Guuto Dolal

Baby Driver is the action event of the summer that lives up to most expectations. From the brilliant mind of Edgar Wright, it tells the story of an unbelievably good getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) who is looking for a clean start by walking away from his criminal past to settle down with a local waitress (Lily James). The chase scenes in this film were world class and Elgort is fantastic in them all. The opening scene and a foot chase scene later in the film were both extremely well done action sequences. Through a rather effective use of shaky camera, the foot chase scene creates a raw and intense experience. Alongside Elgort is a supporting cast that shines bright with wonderful performances by Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez and Lily James. They all were very funny and boosted this film to another level. The soundtrack, which is easily the best of the year, is incorporated into the film so well that it feels like a character of its own. Much of the film feels like a music video, including one point early on when lyrics from Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle” appear on screen as they follow our protagonist. The film also goes by at a very brisk pace so there is rarely a dull moment, and Wright’s trademark editing style also helps to keep viewers engaged. Of course, the movie isn’t perfect, as Wright goes a bit over the top at points with some character decisions that break viewer immersion. With that said, it never prevents Baby Driver from being the most fun theatrical experience of the past summer.

Grade: A

The Book of Henry
By Chris Ranta

Believe the hype, The Book of Henry is as insanely and amazingly terrible as it sounds. It’s nearly impossible to delve into the film’s issues without ruining the experience, and this film is truly an experience that must be seen to be believed. However, it’s at least worth trying to explain some of the film’s many flaws. The tone is all over the place, the characters are either clichéd or do really stupid things because the script says so, and the plot feels virtually non-existent because there are so many events going on throughout the runtime and a lot of the events are so baffling, insane and out of the ordinary. That’s only a handful of the issues that prove that director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) clearly had no true vision as well as no idea how to bring something like this to the screen. With that said, the film is a truly magical experience that must be seen because of how much it falls apart. It really is a “so bad it’s good” film, and for people who want a good laugh, The Book of Henry comes highly recommended.

Grade: ???

Death Note
By Lucas Kowalik

Death Note, the Netflix live-action adaptation of the beloved anime is, unfortunately, garbage. This film tries so hard to be edgy by featuring comically absurd amounts of blood, as well as an obsession with the word “motherfucker” that would even make Sam Jackson cringe. With that said, not much more can expected from director Adam Wingard, whose catalogue includes a bounty of forgettable horror films such as last year’s universally despised Blair Witch, another example of him misunderstanding and butchering beloved source material.

From the overblown sequence that introduces Ryuk, it’s clear that Wingard is going to tread the so-bad-it’s-good line throughout the film’s run time. The only good performance to be found is actually Ryuk, who is expertly voice acted by Willem Dafoe. Nat Wolff portrays the white-washed lead Light Turner, who has about as much charisma as a sack of potatoes. While his performance may be pretty awful, it is nowhere near as bad as Lakeith Stanfield’s Razzie-worthy portrayal of L. It’s a shame he took this role considering the great performances he has given recently in Get Out, Atlanta, and Short Term 12.

While Death Note is a poorly made and whitewashed adaptation of the anime, it’s also incredibly enjoyable, but not in the way Wingard likely intended it to be. So find a friend, get a case of beer, and laugh at this monstrosity until it hurts.

Grade: D

Despicable Me 3
By Caleb Fox

This fourth entry (counting Minions) in the animated series about a super-villain turned super-dad, has all the elements that made the previous entries solid doses of family entertainment, adding new characters for Gru’s third adventure. However, what has worked for the franchise in the past falls flat in this film, making it by far the weakest of the main trilogy.

The story is utterly predictable and far less engaging. It’s full of pointless subplots that add nothing to the movie, and the dialogue is burdened by heavy handed exposition. Also, the humour no longer has the same punch, and all of the characters are less interesting this time around. That’s not to say that the film is bad, it’s perfectly fine as an afternoon matinée for the kids, and the cast is still entertaining (Steve Carell does a good job pulling double duty as Gru and his twin brother Dru). However, it still falls below the standard set by its predecessors, and there’s much better summer fare for kids and adults alike.

Grade: C-

Dunkirk
By Guuto Dolal

Dunkirk, the latest from acclaimed director Christopher Nolan, is an intense viewing experience from start to finish. From the second the action begins in the first scene, Nolan refuses to let up until the credits start rolling. The score is wonderfully done by Hans Zimmer, and adds a lot to the tension and themes of the film. There was a constant ticking in the score, resembling that of a pocket watch, which adds another dimension of uneasiness to the already thrilling war scenes. The acting was fantastic, despite the actors having very limited dialogue to read from. The shortage of dialogue helps the film as it gives focus to the characters and the decisions made in extreme circumstances. The nonlinear plot was hard to follow at points, but the harrowing battle scenes kept viewers engaged throughout the running time. While this is a very good film and a very engaging theatre experience, it’s not as re-watchable as Nolan’s other work, as second and third viewings will leave you bored and looking at the clock. Aside from that, catch Dunkirk in theatres if you still can, and in gorgeous 70mm if at all possible, as it’s well worth the price of admission.

Grade: B+

Ghost in the Shell
By Sara Clements

Ghost in the Shell is a popular Japanese manga series, which later became an acclaimed animated film series. When Hollywood decided to get its hands on it, they turned it into one of the most controversial films of the year, with the casting of a white female lead (Scarlett Johansson) to play the celebrated character, Major. Director Rupert Sanders presents a film whose strength is in its breathtaking world building. We see a reinvented Asian metropolis with its tall and stacked buildings, and enormous holographic billboards. This well-crafted landscape, reminiscent of Blade Runner, is enhanced by skillful cinematography. Every scene is eye-candy, but it also presents an interesting narrative. It follows Major as she tries to find her true identity, who she was before she became a “ghost” in her robotic shell. The topic is nothing new to film, but it’s presented in a cool and vibrant way. Johansson does a great job at expressing the emotion that comes with feeling lost, with Michael Pitt and Juliette Binoche providing the strongest supporting roles. While Sanders created a film that boast stunning visuals and a compelling story of identity, it loses the source material’s magic by white-washing it.

Grade: C-

Girl’s Trip
By Caleb Fox

Director Malcolm D. Lee brings us a comedy about four lifelong friends (Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Queen Latifah) who have a long awaited reunion in New Orleans during an annual festival, and it is by far and away the funniest film of the year. There seems to have been a lack of good comedies in 2017, but Girls Trip helps make up for this by delivering a slew of laughs. Every time one intensely hilarious scene ends, viewers are left wondering what the film will do next to keep the laughter flowing, but the movie continually tops itself with one side-splitting set piece after another.

The ensemble cast here fires on all cylinders, and they are a joy to watch together. The chemistry shared by the group is excellent, and they draw bigger and bigger laughs as the film goes on. Though the whole cast is great, Haddish is a particular scene stealing standout, as she fires one comedic bullet after another, hitting a bullseye every time.

Girl’s Trip doesn’t just succeed in the humour department, either. The drama that drives the plot forward is engaging with characters that are interesting and well rounded. The only time the drama falters is when the climax comes around. The film pulls in the reins on the humour in order to let the central conflict fully play out. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, because it still keeps the audience engaged, it does make the final act feel a bit too serious, leaving the audience waiting for one big last laugh that’s not really delivered.

Despite a problematic final act, Girl’s Trip is one of the summer’s best films. It’s raunchy, clever, and a blast of fresh air into the comedy genre that will leave viewers with tears of laughter in their eyes.

Grade: A

Good Time
By Chris Ranta

Good Time is one of the most thrilling and human films of the year. The whole film is a non-stop rush as we watch the protagonist, Connie (Robert Pattinson in a wonderful performance) try to get his brother out of prison overnight. While the film is extremely thrilling, there’s also a sense of anxiety we face as Connie tries to accomplish his mission. This anxiety comes from our empathy for him, a man who feels deep remorse for getting his helpless brother, Nick, arrested by dragging him along for a bank robbery. His and our desire to see that he is free not only adds to the thrills, but it adds a side of humanity that is rarely seen in a film like this. Not only were Connie’s initial actions deeply flawed, but even the events revolving around him trying to get Nick out of prison are irresponsible and dangerous. However, it’s his good intentions that make the character relatable and likable, despite the situation surrounding him. The supporting actors all give fantastic performances from Jennifer Jason Leigh to co-director Benny Safdie as Nick. The score is also a highlight, as it adds a thrilling and beautiful retro-synth vibe to the film. It’s a shame that this didn’t get a wider release, but if you have a chance to see this film, be sure to take advantage of it.

Grade: A-

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