There are few things seemingly more dangerous in modern film culture than playing in familiar genre playgrounds without hiding behind genre language when trying for genuine emotion. Especially when you're as well-known for genre-savvy as someone like Edgar Wright.
Make no mistake, Wright is no stranger to genuine drama in his films, but he's always felt. . .let's say, comfortable in how he's been able to couch it within whatever previous context his films have used - especially in his non-adaptions. There's a lot to parse about the subtext of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World's End, but there's a feeling of safety when dealing with movies that are send-ups of zombie films, buddy cop actioners, or sci-fi invasion flicks.
Much like its title character, Baby Driver throws that caution to the winds to reach for something, and it may just end up being Wright's best movie for it.
I don't just mean that the character is an important icon to young girls who have few enough superhero role models that are regularly given visibility the way Diana Prince has (though she's still strangely under-served by modern media after 75 years), and I don't just mean that Patty Jenkins' film is important to the increasingly-struggling DC Extended Universe (though it absolutely is). Wonder Woman as an idea is important, because she embodies the concept that compassion is the greatest strength, that loyalty is greater than greed, and that love is mightier than hate.
And we need to be reminded of that every now and then. Especially now.
I've made no secret that I love love loveGuardians of the Galaxy. The film hit me at a very specific time in a very specific way and - aside from the fact that there'd been a dearth of quality space adventure films back in 2014 (got DANG does it feel good to have Star Wars back in the realm of "not terrible") - the film was a love letter to children who grew up in the 1980's and managed, in its own small way, to help me personally work through a major loss that year.
So, to say that writer/director James Gunn had a big jump to hurdle in a second entry would be an understatement. And while no one could hope to recapture the "Holy crap, is this actually happening?" surprise of the original (a similar "problem" faced by Age of Ultron) Gunn delivers a film that is packed with his signature style and humor, is 100% character-driven, and packs an emotional wallop that is unrivaled in the MCU.
It's a sophomore superhero film to rival Spider-Man 2.
Disney's current kick of remaking their iconic animated films in live-action shows no sign of stopping. Not only did Cinderella make more than half a billion dollars on a budget of less than $100 million, but last year's The Jungle Book wiped the floor with WB's would-be titan Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice at the box office. So it absolutely makes sense that the House of Mouse would want to have another bite at the apple (see what I did there?) of one of their most well-known and well-regarded films.
And while it was utterly unnecessary, Beauty and the Beast is yet another - mostly - successful effort.
For all their ups and downs, the single greatest constant in the X-Men movie franchise has been Hugh Jackman's series-defining turn as James "Logan" Howlett, a.k.a., Wolverine. Even going so far as to provide laudably memorable cameos in films ostensibly not featuring any part of his story, Jackman (who was a last-minute replacement for Dougray Scott when Mission: Impossible 2 conflicted with the filming schedule of 2000's X-Men) has been so magnetic a screen presence that 7 of the 10 movies in Fox's franchise are mostly or entirely about him.
And he's absolutely defined the character for an entire generation of film-goers who have literally grown up with these movies. That's more than worthy of a good send-off now that he's ready to hang up the claws for good, and Logan absolutely provides that.
Mostly by being completely uninterested in being a show-boaty tribute to the title character or pandering to audience expectations.
I've long asserted that the genres of horror and comedy are beholden to similar skill sets when it comes to their effective execution, primarily that the ability to build and release tension/expectations by means of either laughs or scares (or, in some cases, both) is absolutely essential.
If all Jordan Peele's debut film had going for it was a basic grasp of these skills (honed over years of fantastic sketch comedy on his and Keegan-Michael Key's "Key and Peele" run) coupled with the brilliant premise that is Get Out's central hook, he could have more or less coasted on that. But Peele shows up with a wicked, knowing smile, a thirst to play for keeps, and a surprising grasp of cinematic language for a first-time director.
And he absolutely CRUSHES IT. Get Out is a stone-cold modern horror classic, and best film of its kind since The Cabin in the Woods.
Look, at this point it's beyond cliche and almost passe to say that 2016 was...well, not so much a dumpster fire of a year as it was a congealing of dark forces from the hidden corners of our reality that gained malevolent consciousness and cut a vindictive swath of destruction through almost everything we know and love.
I mean, there were some good things. Tigers and Pandas are less endangered. Ebola got its ass kicked. I found out that I'm gonna be a dad. And yeah, there were some really bitchin' movies.