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Midyear Movie Report
At movie theaters in the first half of 2017, the bright spots have been surprises—coming from new filmmakers, unexpected twists, and franchises we had given up on. Ahead, the 10 films we've loved.
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1. Get Out
Jordan Peele's audaciously original feature debut betrays none of the stumbles of a first-time director: His blade-sharp (and oh, there will be blades) take on race, sex, and self-perception is both cutting cultural satire and a giddy ode to classic horror—Guess Who's Coming to Dinner meets I Spit on Your Grave for the postmillennial age.
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2. Wonder Woman
After a long wait, the DC flick to finally silence all of the haters has arrived. As Amazonian avenger Diana Prince, Gal Gadot radiates the sort of thousand-watt charisma that makes you believe that WWI could've actually been won by a fierce feminist warrior with bulletproof bracelets. A star — and a franchise — is born.
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3. The Salesman
This year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner, the intimate import from Iranian maestro Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) plumbs the unspoken depths of one married couple's struggle with the highly charged emotional fallout of a random violent act. It builds slowly, but culminates with a devastating knockout punch.
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Nobody lives forever. But if you're very lucky — or if, say, you invented the Slinky, romanced Jack Ruby, or single-handedly saved the Skylab space station in 1973 — you just might earn an obituary in The New York Times. Vanessa Gould's profile of the paper's so-called death squad is actually a wry, charming celebration of life in every form.
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5. The Lost City of Z
James Gray's haunting and majestic adaptation of David Grann's best-seller about British explorer Percy Fawcett's quest for a mythical lost city in the Amazon is an old-fashioned epic with a touch of 21st-century madness. If you've been reluctant to invest in the idea of Charlie Hunnam as a movie star, now's the time to buy.
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Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo's monster mash has everything: an alcoholic Anne Hathaway, giant kaiju lizards stomping on Seoul, bait-and-switch supporting turns by Dan Stevens and Jason Sudeikis, and a horror-comedy plotline so fantastically surreal it might just be the only truly original concept on celluloid this year.
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7. John Wick 2
First they killed his dog. Now they've messed with his car. As motivations for bare-knuckle, bullet-riddled payback go, no one's going to mistake the John Wick movies for Hamlet. But thanks to Keanu Reeves' wardrobe of natty suits, stockpile of firearms, and robotically stoic poses, this is the pinnacle of brutal, bloody action-movie ballet. Killing is John Wick's business... and business is good.
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The roaming feline residents of Istanbul are the ostensible stars of director Ceyda Torun's delightful documentary. The cats aren't so much feral as communal, though, and the movie's thoughtful lens on kedis and their human caretakers becomes a vivid document of daily life in one of the world's oldest and most cinematic cities.
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9. I Am Not Your Negro
Raoul Peck's blistering documentary is billed as a biographical deep dive into the life and work of African-American author James Baldwin as told in his own words. But before too long, it becomes something more sprawling and urgent: a resounding thunderclap of a wake-up call about our country's tragic, tortured history with race and civil rights. It arrives not a moment too soon.
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10. The Commune
Free love is hardly ever free, but it's an endlessly fertile subject for Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt, Far From the Madding Crowd), who channels his own childhood experience to render this bittersweet portrait of one upper-middle-class family's communal-living experiment in 1970s Copenhagen in tender, period-perfect detail.