My Incredibly Late 2017 Movie Year In Review!!!!


 

2017 was a fantastic year for movies.  Unlike 2016, audiences experienced an eclectic blend of tent-pole fare (The Last Jedi, Wonder Woman), excellent horror (Get Out, IT), solid sequels (Logan, Trainspotting 2), and sensational dramas (Three Billboards, Mudbound).  Although most people put these types of articles out the first week in January, I tend to wait ahwile  And I’m glad I did because over the last weeks I’ve seen two films that made my top movies of the year.  So without further preamble here are the best, the worst, and everything in between:

 

Most Underrated Movie:  Bright

For the life of me I do not understand the hate for this film.  Critics reacted to this movie like it was the bastard son of I, Frankenstein and the Super Mario Bros. movie.  Was it out there and slightly disjointed?  Absolutely.  But it feels like some critics went into this film with their knives out, dipped in poison.  The action was great, the performances were solid, and it left me wanting more.  If you can evoke those reactions in me, I consider that a successful film.  I hate applying the term “fun” to describe a movie, but I had a blast.

 

Most Overrated Movie:  Dunkirk 

I love Christopher Nolan but I only liked this movie.  It’s still a solid 8/10 for me but the film is nothing more than an adequate war film.  From a technical standpoint:  cinematography, lighting, direction, editing, music–it’s phenomenal.  However, the film contains zero character development and a plot that left me wanting.  The former is what’s so surprising because Nolan has become a master at creating flawed characters that you feel a real personal connection with, ones that enhance the plot but don’t overshadow it.  The latter is equally surprising just because of the subject matter.  The evacuation at Dunkirk should have made for a gripping and compelling tale.  Yet I never felt a sense of urgency or anticipation.  In fact Darkest Hour covers the same time frame in a more compelling manner albeit behind the scenes.  Ultimately, Dunkirk left me cold and proves to be Nolan’s “worst” film since Insomnia.

 

Most Overhyped Movie:  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The original Guardians of the Galaxy remains my favorite Marvel film today.  Yet the sequel takes all the elements of the first film and cranks them up to the extreme.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 falls into the same vein as Dunkirk in that I liked it but didn’t love it.  While the chemistry of the characters remains, they went WAAAAY too heavy on the jokes.  I liked the fact that they addressed the topic of toxic fatherhood and Michael Rooker’s Yondu was great.  And as much as I loved Kurt Russell, he didn’t make for a very compelling villain, something that Marvel has been much maligned for.  I’m confident that Vol. 3 will deliver however.

 

Most Overlooked Movie:  The Discovery

In a year where Netflix really started to come into their own with original films, most people brushed right past The Discovery.  A dynamic film about loss, regret, death, and what lies beyond death, The Discovery defies expectations and was a true acting vehicle for Jason Seigel.  A grieving husband at odds with his genius father (Robert Redford) Seigel stretches his range and delivers a great performance.  The film is a melancholy but ultimately hopeful film.  It’s a little gem that if you didn’t have the chance to check it out last year you need to.

 

Most Overly Criticized Movie:  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

While by no means in the same league as Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, Valerian wasn’t nearly deserving of the negative criticism heaped up on it.  A visual spectacle, Valerian I think suffered from being an optimistic science fiction film in a time where people seem to prefer dark and introspective.  (Like a reasonable person, I believe there’s room for both.)  The plot itself was actually pretty interesting involving a military coverup and the decimation of an alien race.  Various alien races were presented in stunning and distinct ways and the opening sequence with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” was awesome.  Valerian suffered from a weak lead in Dane DeHaan and sad to say, the film isn’t a tent pole franchise.

 

Most Messed Up Movie:  mother!

Nothing even comes close to how batshit mother! is.  It’s in a category all by its own in terms of bizarre.  Beautifully shot, well acted, with plot a that just ups the insanity ante every fifteen minutes, mother!  was hands down the craziest movie of the year.  Yes it’s heavy on the Biblical/Mother Earth allegory but years from now mother! will go down as one of the top horror films of this decade.  If you didn’t come out of this film thinking, “WTF did I just watch??” you should probably seek mental help.

 

Best Movie No One Saw:  Brawl In Cell Block 99

Vince Vaughn’s always been hit or miss for me.  Yes Swingers is great and I liked him in Hacksaw Ridge, but for the most part I feel like he plays the same character in every film.  That’s not the case here.  Vaughn is a force of nature as Bradley (NOT Brad) Thomas, a character that just oozes danger but also lives by a code.  The performances are great especially Don Johnson as the sadistic warden and the film possesses a brutality akin to some of the hardcore crime action films of the 1980s.

 

Most Disappointing Movie:  The Dark Tower

When I did my most anticipated films of 2017 last year, this one was high on my list.  As time grew closer to the release and the trailers did not impress I grew weary.  In fact I didn’t even see the film in the theater.  And when I finally saw it my fears were well founded.  The Dark Tower was a travesty of justice, a 90 minute schlock fest that just shits all over the source material.  About the only good thing to come out of the film was Idris Elba’s performance as Roland but it wasn’t nearly as good as people said it was.  I was happy to see the film bombed because hopefully the tentative television show that’s in the works will just start from scratch.

Worst Movie of 2017:  Call Me By Your Name

If you’ve already read my review, you know how I feel about this film.  Words can’t express how much I loathed this movie.  From the lackluster performances, to the terrible direction, to the boring plot, to the sub par cinematography, to the plodding direction, Call Me By Your Name fails on every level.  At least for me.  I know it’s been critically lauded and nominated for several Academy Awards but make no mistake, no one will remember this film in two years.

 

And now ladies and gentlemen my top films of the year!  Please note that I kept my list to films I considered to be 9s and 10s.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

 

17.  The Disaster Artist 9/10

Putting aside James Franco’s recent sexual assault allegations, The Disaster Artist was still one of the great movies of 2017 and arguably the best comedy.  While yes it’s a film about what many consider the Citizen Kane of bad movies, it’s also a look at how tough it really is to make it in Hollywood and the daily grind of constantly being told no.  It’s also a contemplative look at friendship, obsession, passion, paranoia, and betrayal.  Tommy Wisseau is kind of the Elon Musk of Hollywood without the talent.  He fortunately had the money, which allowed him to actually get The Room made.  Opinions on Franco’s performance were mixed, some saying it was just a really good impersonation, others that it was a brilliant display of acting.  I personally fall into the later category.

 

16.  Get Out 9/10

Jordan Peele’s horror film (and yes it IS a horror film) burst on the scene last February after rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival the month before.  Sophisticated, socially conscious, funny, and with a pervasive sense of dread, Get Out proves to be one of the best horror films of the decade.  Anchored by a strong performance from Daniel Kaluuya and a compelling original screenplay from Jordan Peele, Get Out is destined to go down as one of the greats in the pantheon of the horror genre.

 

15.  Wonder Woman 9/10

The DCEU hasn’t exactly hit a ton of home runs when it comes to its slate of films, however they did with this one.  Wonder Woman is everything fans hoped it would be.  Smart, funny, well written, well-directed, and Gal Gadot is just iconic as the titular Amazonian.  Patty Jenkins and Gadot deserve all the credit in the world and I can’t wait to see what they bring us next.  WWII perhaps?  Love to see Diana punching some Nazis.

 

14.  John Wick: Chapter 2 9/10

Somebody!  Please!  Get this man a sequel!  That’s what I was hoping when I saw the original John Wick a few years ago and holy crap did this movie deliver.  Chapter 2 is one of those rare films that matches the original in terms of quality while standing on its own as a unique story.  I mean what could be cooler than John Wick taking on literally everyone? Even better, it sets up the third and final (?) film.  Moreover, we are now getting a series based strictly on the Continental.  Keanu Reeves was born to play this role just like he was born to play Neo in The Matrix.

 

13.  Alien: Covenant 9/10

Prometheus was more than a little controversial when it came out in 2012.  Most thought it was visually stunning but lacking in story.  I personally loved it, and the follow-up, Alien: Covenant was just as enjoyable.  Michael Fassbender once again kills it as David the A.I. and Walter a newer model.  What was interesting about this film was how Gothic in tone it was and it was more of a commentary on what it means to be human.  Sure when the Alien finally shows up it’s awesome, but this movie is much deeper than people give it credit for.  The supporting cast was also great especially Danny McBride.  I sincerely hope we get a wrap up to this series.

 

12.  Wind River 9/10

Before the Harvey Weinstein story exploded across the world, this was one of the most talked about movies…that not a lot of people saw unfortunately.  Taylor Sheridan’s debut directorial film was nothing less than spectacular.  At this point with scripts like Sicario and Hell or High Water under his belt, Sheridan has proven he’s got his finger on the pulse of America.  Wind River just solidifies that.  A great murder mystery, with sweeping vistas, and one explosive ending,  Jeremy Renner has never been better.  If you missed this one in 2017 I highly recommend you give it a whirl.

 

11.  I, Tonya 9/10

This film floored me.  I was expecting it to be decent but not this good.  It’s like Goodfellas meets some fucked up redneck version of Slap Shot.  Margot Robbie mesmerizes as Tonya Harding, the former world-class skater implicated in the assault against fellow ice skater Nancy Kerrigan.  This movie proves Robbie is a great actress.  However, as great as Robbie was Allison Janney commands every scene she’s in as Tonya’s spiteful and abusive mother.  And forget The Winter Soldier, Sebastian Stan, cast against type, stretches his range and succeeds as the insecure and violent Jeff Gillooly, Harding’s husband.  It’s a biting indictment of our voyeuristic society and just one Hell of a film.

 

AND NOW MY TOP 10 MOVIES OF THE YEAR!

 

10.  War for the Planet of the Apes 9/10

The new apes trilogy will go down as one of the best in the series of sci-fi/fantasy.  It’s right up there with the original Star Wars trilogy, Lord of the Rings, and Back to the Future.  Matt Reeves delivers what is arguably the best of the trilogy as we see Caesar’s story arc fully complete.  Graceful, compelling, bittersweet, and sporting some of the best visual effects of the year, this movie would make my top ten just for Andy Serkis’ performance alone.  The man isn’t just a great motion capture actor, he’s a great actor PERIOD.  That the Academy refuses to recognize these types of performances remains a mystery to me.

 

9.  IT 9/10

My expectations coming into this film were through the roof.  IT is tied for my favorite book of all-time and I have very fond memories of the original television mini-series, even if it comes off very dated today.  I was not disappointed.  I loved the Losers, I loved the atmosphere, I loved Pennywise, and I loved how they stayed close to the books in a lot of aspects.  Andy Muschetti delivered on all levels.  Finn Wolfhard proved he’s more than just Stranger Things and Sophia Lillis was a delight as Beverly Marsh.  And Bill Skarsgard killed it (haha) as Pennywise.  I can’t wait for the sequel.

 

8.  Trainspotting 2  9/10

This movie had no business being as good great as it was.  It was a sequel I wasn’t expecting, didn’t know I needed, and really didn’t think would happen.  But it was great to see Mark, “Sick Boy,” “Spud,” and Begbie back in action.  The chemistry, the banter, the humor…it was still all there.  What a great commentary on friendship and the difficulties of middle age.  And the new “Choose Life” speech by McGregor was spot on.  Furthermore, it probably had one of the best lines of the year:  “You’re a tourist in your own youth.”  Daaaamn son.  What a line!

 

7.  Mudbound 10/10

Unlike previous years I saw a fair majority of 10s this year and Mudbound begins the last seven on this list.  If this hadn’t been a Netflix film it would have been nominated for Best Picture.  Beautifully shot, impeccably directed by Dee Rees, and sporting some amazing performances from Mary J. Blidge and Garrett Hedlund, Mudbound is a brutal look at race relations in the deep South post WWII.  Uplifting and tragic, Mudbound may be the best feature film Netflix has delivered yet.  With an ending that’s harrowing, it’s a movie that proves socially relevant in our modern era.  If you have the streaming service, get on this film.

 

6.  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 10/10

When I saw this movie it was one of those rare occasions where I was actually the only one in the theater.  Granted it was like a Tuesday in the afternoon a month after the film released but still.  Watching a film by yourself in the theater is an interesting experience.  Mostly, because you have the freedom to let loose regarding your reactions.  In polite society people tend to frown upon saying “Holy shit!” out loud in a crowded theater.  And there were several of them in Three BillboardsThree Billboards quite possibly had the best acting performances as a whole than any other movie in 2017.  When effing Peter Dinklage is the fourth of fifth best performance you know you’re watching greatness.  Francis McDormand delivers her best dramatic performance since Mississippi Burning as Mildred, the grieving mother whose daughter was brutally raped and murdered.  Sam Rockwell gives the performance of his career as Dixon, an idiotic, racist police officer that is despicable and yet somehow endearing.  The humor is the blackest of the black but still hilarious.  It’s a riveting drama from director McDonagh.  With three hits in a row (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, and now Three Billboards) I can’t wait to see what he does next.

 

5.  Baby Driver 10/10

I love Edgar Wright.  He’s a director who knows what he wants and will not compromise when it comes to creative control.  (Ant-Man anyone?)  However, despite this I really didn’t know what to expect with Baby Driver.  Flat-out, it was a blast.  Ansel Elgort created a character in Baby that is immediately iconic.  When you drop character names like Neo, Dirty Harry, Daniel-san–it immediately brings images to your brain.  Same here with Baby Driver.  Fast paced and sporting some of the best car chases I’ve ever seen, this movie never stops and it’s never what you expect.

 

4.  The Shape of Water 10/10

The Shape of Water is Guillermo Del Toro’s best film.  Yup that includes Pan’s Labyrinth.  It’s quirky, strange, heartfelt, and easily contains the best love story of the year.  Sally Hawkins is a revelation as Elisa.  The idea of a love story between a mute janitorial worker and a humanoid fish man who can heal people sounds bizarre, yet somehow it works.  Mostly because it’s more about the relationship and our conceptions of love rather than who the individuals actually are.  Richard Jenkins also shines as the gay neighbor to Sally and proves how he’s one of the better character actors of this generation.  If Del Toro doesn’t win the Best Director Oscar it will be a travesty.

 

3.  Logan 10/10

I’ve seen Logan twice now and I’m fully convinced that next to The Dark Knight, this is the best superhero film ever made.  It’s an amazing elegy on death, regret, getting older, and the legacy we leave behind.  It’s also packed with some riveting actions scenes, great dialogue, and several humorous moments. Hugh Jackman saved his best performance for last and Daphne Keen is a revelation as X-23.  Why Patrick Stewart didn’t get an Oscar nomination I’ll never know.

 

2.  The Last Jedi 10/10

Look I know this movie is divisive but I don’t care, The Last Jedi not only deserves to be on my list, it deserves to be this high.  Never have I seen a more nuanced, intellectual, and captivating Star Wars film.  I am shocked that they actually let Rian Johnson make this movie.  It was bold, brash, and daring.  Mark Hamill delivers easily the best performance of his career and I was amazed at the depth of this story.  Can’t wait for the next one.

 

 

BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR

 

 

1.  Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 was an unexpected and upon first thought, unnecessary sequel.  Why would you ever make a sequel to one of the most influential and important science-fiction movies of all time?  Turns out I had nothing to worry about.  This movie blew me away on every level.  Acting, direction, atmosphere, plot (which honestly is BETTER than the original), and originality–I loved it.  It’s the only movie other than The Last Jedi I saw in the theater twice last year.  This is one of those films where I will be picking things up about it I didn’t see before with each new viewing.  The examination of what it means to be human and whether or not AIs are actually sentient was truly brilliant.  Even if we never get another Blade Runner film (and chances are we won’t) I feel blessed that this movie actually exists.

 

Well that’s a wrap for 2017!  Here’s hoping for another amazing film year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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