Having seen mostly independent films and foreign releases, making a top 10 of mainstream, theatrically released films is practically impossible. However, some of these films deserve to be recognized and seen. Here are my 5 favorites of the mainstream American films I’ve seen this year.
Rian Johnson has created what is easily one of the most complete and well developed “Star Wars” cinematic installments since “Empire.” While it does have the occasional pitfall (Porgs), “The Last Jedi” is a masterstroke for the series so far. Johnson manages to skillfully build on this new universe while also answering a lot of the pressing questions that the fans had for “The Force Awakens.” This is the second film to usher in the new generation and ease out the originals, turning this in to a war where the underdogs are still the rebels and they’re filled with reverence for folks like Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa. Johnson focuses primarily on the “How,” and “Why” questions from “The Force Awakens,” allowing fans closure on a lot of the nagging questions that left them excited and or baffled.
What I love about “Kong: Skull Island” is that while it’s essentially a good old fashioned matinee monster movie at heart, it’s also a pretty clever take on the Vietnam war. “Kong: Skull Island” implements the classic trope from the classic giant monster movies taking a group of armed men and women in to the wilderness, and uses that as an allegory for the Vietnam war. Like the aforementioned war, US soldiers storm in to a wilderness they were unprepared to do battle with, except they face an unparalleled force of nature. Also very effectively setting up a cinematic universe, Jordan Vogt-Roberts aspires for a lot, and succeeds as a simple and harrowing adventure with big monsters, and menacing creatures far and wide.
Bob Clark’s “Deathdream” is one of the most sought after horror films ever made, one of those films that has been inexplicably out of print constantly and very much prized as a genuine horror gem. I’m one of those people that having seen “Deathdream” twice just can’t like what Bob Clark brings his audience. One of the reasons why is because “Deathdream” is so relentlessly bleak and dark. It’s an immensely depressing and viciously grim movie. And while that’s one of the main elements it’s been propelled it in to cult status, for me it’s just a major hindrance. I remember watching Bob Clark’s horror film the first time and just leaving it in a state of sadness.
Shout! Factory once again comes forward with a nifty collection for fans of action, science fiction, and Halo, comprising four of the web series from the mid-aughts that chronicled the “Halo” game universe. With a tight package and a slew of great extras and bells and whistles for the fans, this video collection is strictly for the die hard Halo fanatics that want to see more of this world, and learn so much more about the Spartans and war that’s ensuing.
Micronesians are a big part of the US military forces but get very little in terms of recognition or assurance that they will be taken care of if and when things take a bad turn. Here the Nena family is followed through their sons’ and their struggles and joy with the process of them joining the American military, going abroad, training, going into service, et al.
This time around “V” embraces its science fiction roots more, allowing for a lot more looks in to the rebellion, and the inclusion of new corners of the visitors’ world and the rebels. Most of all, there’s the introduction of a Visitor/Human hybrid that becomes one of the larger symbols of the war, and is pushed back and forth between the resistance and people that think the visitors can stop the invasion and work with Earth. Months after the humans sent out the beacon for other alien species to help them take down the Visitors, nothing has happened and the humans are still trying to stop the Visitors and their plans. Now the Visitors are building new tactics, which includes armor that can deflect bullets, and a form of torture leader Diana has concocted that allows her to convert humans to the side of Visitors for programming.
It’s been said time and time again that if we don’t learn from history that we’re doomed to repeat it, and “V” is a remarkable miniseries that examines what happens when history repeats itself. Set in a not too distant future, Earth is visited by a massive race of anthropomorphic alien beings that looks very human in nature. Though imposing, the alien race presents itself in a charming and docile manner, and interrupts civilization to settle alongside us. Known as the Visitors, they’re a very uniform mass of beings, all of whom proclaim themselves our friends after arriving in a fleet of large ships one day. By garnering help from various governments and influential people to acquire various chemicals and minerals for their ailing world, they agree to give Earth access to their advanced technology which they promise will cure diseases of all kinds. Soon enough, though they begin to insinuating themselves in to the general populace and before long create an environment of unease and tension among some individuals.