First, let me just explain something about this idea to compile a list of the best movies I saw in 2017. I figured I would watch movies I had seen before, but they would be lower on the list. However, the top two movies of February are ones which I have seen before. Second, I want to let you in on a little secret of how I rate/review movies. There will be movies that are lower budget, or old, which will be higher than what you might expect. But I don’t just judge a movie by the quality. I judge it by three things: quality, content, and potential. Quality includes the acting, directing, editing, etc. Content is how much objectionable content is in the movie, and how much does it take away from the experience. And finally, potential. Potential, is based on the concept of the story. Whether I think they did the story justice, or if they pulled off what they were aiming for. So, with that in mind, let’s get to the movies.
I had already seen Zootopia twice, so I was hesitant to watch it a third time. However, it was still thoroughly enjoyable. The movie just won the Oscar for best animated feature Sunday, almost a full year after it released. It grossed a BILLION dollars at the international box office. This movie has a story that grabs you from the beginning. In a time where I thought all talking animal movies were a thing of the past, Zootopia breathed in new life to the genre. Offering a fresh take on police profiling, prejudice, and racism, Zootopia found a way to explain tough mature themes in a way that kids could understand. I think it will go down in Cinematic history as a classic, and I can’t wait to see where they take the characters in the sequel. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a great take on seeing people for who they are, instead of stereotypes and assumptions. Speaking of movies that took on prejudice…
2: Gentleman’s Agreement
Once again, this is a movie I had seen before. Gentleman’s Agreement is about a reporter who is hired to write a series about Anti-Semitism. He comes up with the idea to pretend to be Jewish, and learns firsthand the kind of racism and hate that Jews experienced during post world war 2. It is sad to see that there is a new rise in Anti-Semitism and I think this movie could help a lot of people. It is a forgotten gem of a movie, with a great performance by Gregory Peck. As a former Homeschooler, I also enjoyed researching about some of the people who are referenced in this movie as Anti-Semites. One being a Gerald LK Smith. It was interesting to find out who he was, and that he was the one who founded the America First political party. A phrase which has been thrown around recently, though one which most people are unaware of where it came from, or what its roots are. As a Christian, I cannot understand how a fellow believer would be against God’s chosen people. Being a Christian also leads me to discuss the best movie I saw this month for the first time…
3: Christian Mingle
So, this is a great example of potential. A Christian rom-com about an online dating service, must be pretty low on the scale of potential. But Corbin Bernsen, (who I loved as the Dad in Psych) wrote and directed it. I had previously seen Rust, a movie he also wrote and directed, so I knew he had talent. This movie was one of those movies where it didn’t try too hard. Let mne explain. Most Christian films that I have seen, try to be great melodramas that will heavily impact everyone who sees it. But Christian Mingle only tries to be a charming romantic comedy with a Christian message. Bernsen knows his limits, and he is comfortable with what he’s shooting for. The movie is charming, witty, and acted well enough to stand up against some Hollywood romantic comedies. After watching Leap Year in January, I couldn’t help but compare Christian Mingle with that movie. And it holds up.
4: Finding Dory
Finding Dory was sadly an example of a wasted opportunity. Granted, Baby Dory was adorable enough to make the movie worthwhile. However, all I could think of while watching Dory, was that it felt like a Toy Story movie. (Don’t believe me? Check out this video.) The story was interesting, and held my interest, and the new angle of Dory’s forgetfulness was a welcome addition. The content was clean, and the story tugged at your heart, but there were parts that felt rushed, or mediocre scenes. The animation was breathtaking. The third act seemed unsteady, but I understand that they had changed the ending after the blackfish documentary made waves (pun intended) in the Sea World universe. So, while this movie was worth watching, it did not live up to it’s potential, or hype.
Oh minions. Adorable, mischievous, and…crude. While they delight as scene stealers in the Despicable Me movies, their own movie was a big disappointment. And it’s in the category of content, that this one hits the mark. About 90% of this movie is great. But it’s that 10% of the movie which stays with you, and makes you wish they hadn’t done that. But because there is a lot of good scenes in this movie, it’s ranked higher than…
6: The Letters
While this movie held my interest while watching it, I continue to like it less the more I think about it. As an Evangelical, I was interested in knowing more about Mother Theresa. The Letters is about her early work in India, and it’s honestly best when you think of it as a docudrama. There were so many instances where I thought “This would make a great movie!” forgetting I was watching an attempt to make a great movie. Mother Theresa was a Catholic nun, working in India, while Gandhi was fighting for India’s independence. She built a hospice in an old Hindu temple. And the title of this movie comes from letters she wrote to a priest, expressing severe depression and what she felt like as “abandonment from God.” The story was there, but the acting, budget, and script did not do the story justice. I think in the future a Mother Theresa miniseries could be quite compelling.
7: Babe: a pig in the city
Let me start this one off by saying that growing up, Babe was one of my favorite movies. Talk about going beyond the potential of a movie. A live action movie about a talking pig who learns how to herd sheep? It is a ridiculous story, that went on to get 6 Oscar Nominations, including Best Picture. Likely one of the last of G rated movies to be nominated in that category. And it wasn’t until a few years ago, that I learned there was even a sequel to this movie. And now I know why. Halfway through this movie, I thought it was going to be one of my new favorite movies. But the quirkiness began to wear off. And by the time it was over, it felt like a gothic movie about talking animals, with a long and boring climax. The story had no clear direction, the comedy was traded for somber expressions from monkeys, and the rural charm of the original was nowhere to be seen. This is a movie I wish I hadn’t seen.
So, that concludes the month of February. For the list of greatest movies, I’ve seen at the end of this year, I am adding from this month CHRISTIAN MINGLE and FINDING DORY.
What did you see this month?