Bad Times at the El Royale - Drew Goddard - The one about that cast of colorful characters hanging out in that big old building, brought together for a common purpose and they all have secrets and there are secret passageways and it's got a lot of fun camera work and precise blocking and speaking and it's got cleverness and big, big surprises that's not Knives Out.
Killerman - Malik Bader - The first ten minutes of Killerman where we follow Chris Hemsworth's Moe on his rounds at his job laundering cash had me thinking I might've found my favorite unheralded movie of the year. It just had the feel of the type of street level shadow economy crime and stakes that I could embrace easily and enthusiastically. After the inevitable happens - shit goes sideways hard and fast at the ass end of a bad decision - the amnesia element dropped and so did my expectations for the rest of the film. Moe sustains a head injury resulting from a violence from police looking to steal from him that causes him to lose his identity - an entirely unnecessary twist to the everybody wants a piece of him thriller I was already invested in. The movie I was invested in, turns out, was only half the movie Bader was intent on making though and in the end the amnesia has as fine a pay-off as I could have hoped for - it just threw me off there for a while in the middle. Still - this flick has got a lot more going for it than against including Zlatko Burić! I do have hopes Bader will make a bonafide crime classic one of these days.
Knives Out - Rian Johnson - The one about that cast of colorful characters hanging out in that big old building, brought together for a common purpose and they all have secrets and there are secret passageways and it's got a lot of fun camera work and precise blocking and speaking and it's got cleverness and big, big surprises that's not Bad Times at the El Royale. I'm happy for Rian Johnson's success and doubly glad he's not trapped inside the Disney franchise machinery and it's wonderful that this original script made so much damn money, but there are a so many more projects I'd rather have him doing than a Benoit Blanc series with Daniel Craig. Agathe Christie pastiche is something I need only in small doses (honestly, I'd rather see Craig do another Joe Bang from Logan Lucky movie or two). Still... this was fun.
Stuber - Michael Dowse - Kumail Nanjiani is the titular Stu - a part time Uber driver trying to make ends meet and Dave Bautista is the hardcharging police detective Vic who, months after the murder of his partner gets a break in the case on the day he is recovering from lasik surgery and can't see well enough to... pretty much anything, but certainly he's in no shape to drive. Luckily his daughter has pre-programmed his phone to call him an Uber to get to an important event that night. Stu is shackled sometimes literally to Vic as he follows the trail of the bad guy who killed his partner (Iko Uwais). This one hits all the usual hardboiled cop beats, but with comic twists (for instance the obligatory strip club scene is in an all male revue club that Vic is too blind to notice "Lot of security here" he notes as they walk around backstage among all the muscle bound guys and the climactic shootout takes place in a Siracha factory blinding just about everybody) and along the way themes of masculinity in crisis and trying to protect your loved ones vs. just being an asshole are explored, but mostly breezy laughs are had amidst the refreshingly R-rated violence. Thank fuck. I don't know why this one bombed and why it was critically dismissed (I even saw it included in a worst movies of the year list) because it's a great throw-back to the crime comedies I grew up loving (48 Hours, Running Scared, Midnight Run, Red Heat, The Hard Way etc.) and I was loving it all the way.
A Vigilante - Sarah Daggar-Nickson - Olivia Wilde as a battered woman whose mission is to help other victims of domestic violence escape. Cool idea that sounds like a comic book premise (like The A-Team meets You Were Never Really Here), but gets a fair dramatic shake with a very engaged performance from Wilde at its core. She gets to be legitimately badass and formidable one moment and loosing her shit, shaking with tears in terror the next. She's not selling any cool vigilante lifestyle, but working out her recovery with fear and trembling and bold moves. What after all does she have left to loose? Definitely looking for what's next from Daggar-Nickson.