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Posted on Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Dave!And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of movies that came out this year.

Or, more accurately, a "wrap-up of movies I saw that came out this year." As always, there's a bunch of movies I never saw that would have probably ended up on my list (we'll get to that later). And here we go...

THE TWELVE BEST...
These are my favorite movies from this year that I actually saw.

Favorite Movies 2017

#1 Thor: Ragnarok
While critics were kind of meh on the first two Thor movies, I loved them. The first captured the grandeur and majesty of a prince of Asgard and set up Loki as a major player in all that would follow. The second faltered a bit on story, but had the best Thor action we had seen to date. And now we get Thor: Ragnarok which heads into new, more comedic territory to deliver one of the most entertaining Marvel Studios films to date. Writer Eric Pearson, who came out of nowhere with only episodes of television's Agent Carter under his belt absolutely nailed the perfect balance of action to laughs. Director Taika Waititi went full-on Jack Kirby with the visuals and made the script absolutely sing. And then there's the flawless cast headed by Chris Hemsworth and his way underutilized comedic chops... plus Tom Hiddleston being the best Loki yet, Cate Blanchett taking the crown as Marvel's best villain yet, Jeff Goldblum being the most Jeff Goldblum we've seen yet, Mark Ruffalo giving us (by far) the best Hulk yet, Idris Elba finally being given something substantial to do and bringing the best Haimdall yet, plus Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie... easily one of the best additions to the Thor saga yet. The plot is almost incidental given the amazing cast and visuals, but it doesn't suck. Thor and Hulk in a buddy movie and it's glorious. By far my favorite film of this year. Of most years.

#2 Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Sony Spider-Man films went from pretty good and took a slow slide to comic book tragedy. I was always glad when a new one was released, but never cared much for what I saw. Until Marvel got the character back and made him exactly the character he needed to be. Spider-Man: Homecoming is easily the best Spider-Man to ever hit the screen. Painfully respectful to the source material (holy crap... Spider-Man is just a kid!) with some fantastic updates (Aunt May isn't ancient! Tony Stark is his mentor!) and laced with dazzling special effects that never overwhelm the story, I loved every minute of the movie. Michael Keaton adds new dimension to The Vulture, who is stealing all the tech in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and creating powerfully-armed super-criminals which Peter Parker stumbles upon. Trying to balance being a super-hero with school, his friends, his aunt, and his love-life gets to be quite a challenge, but makes for fantastic entertainment. Robert Downey Jr. popping up from time to time is just the icing on the cake.

#3 Wonder Woman
It's no secret that I positively loathe the new "cinematic universe" being created by DC Comics and Zack Snyder. Dark, depressing, and absolutely no fun... Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman, and Suicide Squad just plain suck. I hated them all. But then Patty Jenkin comes along and plucks Wonder Woman from the gloom to create a glorious representative of what the DC films should be. Taking place in World War I, Steve Trevor crashes into the ocean near Themiscyra, home of the Amazons. Princess Diana, born into a destiny for greater things, leaves paradise to search for Ares, god of war and whom she is convinced is behind the horrors emveloping the world. Things don't go quite as she planned, but Diana becomes the hero we need along the way. Kudos to Gal Gadot and Chris Pine for their amazing performances, which elevate an already remarkable story. When Diana climbs out of the trenches to cross "no-man's land" and save a village in France, we were treated to one of the most surprisingly emotional moments on film in 2017. It was that moment that Princess Diana became Wonder Woman, and Patty Jenkins brought hope to the future of DC Comics on film.

#4 Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2
The original Guardians of the Galaxy has long been one of my favorite Marvel films. It was a complete surprise. I held no hope at all it would be any good, but James Gunn figured out a way to make it more than "good" and I loved everything about it. The sequel didn't capture my imagination like the first... the story is a bit convoluted and lost a bit of the emotional charm... but it's still a wholly entertaining ride that I loved to watch. Kurt Russel pulled off the character of "Ego" the way few others could, which just added to an already flawless cast... the highlight being "Baby Groot," who absolutely nobody can help falling in love with. But above everything is the emotional center that Gunn put at the core of it all. Peter Quill's self-discovery and need for family drives the story in ways that most super-hero flicks can't match, and that's why the movie works as well as it does. Cannot wait for Volume 3.

#5 Blade Runner 2049
It's an unnecessary sequel with a story that was in desperate need of editing, but it was also a revelation with stunning visuals that made it a worth successor to the original film. Most people I know either loved it or hated it with nothing in-between, and I totally get that. And it's part of the reason I liked the film so much... it totally went for the brass ring and took risks that could alienate its audience. Was it the story I most wanted to see? No. But it was still very much in keeping faith with the original, and Ryan Gosling as the Replicant "K" has once again upped my opinion of his talents (the first time being in The Good Guys where he was amazing). Harrison Ford's return as Deckard was in many ways underwhelming, but this isn't his story, so it works. Yes, the film dragged on with every scene feeling far longer than it needed to be, but it was also amazing to look at, has one of the best sound mixes I've ever experienced, and packed an unexpected emotional punch. Dismal box-office practically ensures we won't be getting any more Blade Runners until the inevitable reboot seven years from now, and that's probably okay. Though, by the end of the movie, I was left very much wanting to see more of the dreamy future world that K lives in. I guess that's about as good as an endorsement as I can give.

#6 Atomic Blonde
Charlize Theron is a fantastic actress who knows exactly how to inhabit the roles she takes on. Never is this more apparent than with this 1989 Cold War spy thriller that is filled with some of the best "James Bond" action you will ever see. Relentless action highlighted by some of the most brutal fight scenes you'll see by a woman... or a man. The fact that it was such an amazing 80's soundtrack attached is just the icing on the cake (though I honestly can't picture the movie without it). The twist on a twist at the end was not as surprising as it could have been, but it wraps things up well and has me dying to see a sequel.

Favorite Movies 2017

#7 Get Out
Who knew? I dismissed Get Out as another Key and Peele bit of funny fluff like Keanu and had no plans to ever see it in theaters... thinking maybe I'll catch it on video. But the critical acclaim built up so fast and was so overwhelmingly positive that I had to see it. I was not disappointed. Jordan Peele has stepped away from comedy (while leaving one foot in the pool) to craft a remarkable thriller that has a running commentary on society that few others could handle so deftly. And yet... wholly entertaining on top of that.

#8 LEGO Batman: The Movie
Amazing. DC should just scrap everything they're doing and just LEGO everything. I laughed more time in this film than any film in recent memory. I was sorely tempted to just slap this at #1 and be done with the list... but... so many good films this year.

#9 Coco
It's as if Pixar releases shit like Cars 2 and Cars 3 then compensates for it by releasing stunning works like Brave, Finding Dory, and now Coco.... A heartfelt story married to lush, colorful, gorgeous visuals. Seriously, this is one of the prettiest films ever made.

#10 Kedi
It took owning cats for me to fall in love with cats. Kedi is a love-letter to the stray cats of Istanbul... thousands of them... and the people who interact with them. If you're fascinated by felines, documentaries, and other cultures, this is your movie. Heck, even if you're not into any of those things, this is still your movie.

#11 Baby Driver
A lot of movies tout themselves to be "thrill-rides" and end up being anything but. This movie is a thrill-ride that actually delivers. Edgar Wright took both car chase movies and heist movies to another level by combining gritty action with a phenomenal cast and a killer soundtrack. It's a real shame that Kevin Spacey turned out to be a shit, because this movie typifies him taking on a subordinate role in a film and just killing it.

#12 Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name)
Just when you thing the body-swap trope has been done to death and you never want to see it again, director Makoto Shinkai uses it to craft a beautiful, compelling, complex love story unlike any other. Besides being beautifully animated, the story has real emotional impact and a twist you feel. It's a real shame that so few Westerners will see this movie because it's well worth seeing.

   
SPECIAL MENTION...
I love a good standup film. I live for a great standup film. Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King is a standup film to die for. I've seen it five times. I will undoubtedly watch it a dozen more...

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

Because I am not an Indian-American Muslim, Minhaj cannot speak to my experience being an Indian-American Muslim. But he makes it so that I can relate to his story and reach a place where I can better understand what it means to be an Indian-American Muslim in this country... and only the very best comedians can do something like that. This is game-changing, groundbreaking, beautifully-realized, entirely entertaining comedy film that is not to be missed. And that's true no matter who you are or what you believe.

   
SPECIAL MENTION...
Last year my #9 movie was La Tortue Rouge (The Red Turtle), which was a 2016 movie for me because I saw it on the festival circuit. It was put in general USA release this year, so I'm mentioning it again because it's just too beautiful to overlook...

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

La Tortue Rouge - The Red Turtle

Gorgeous animation from Studio Ghibli that's a warm blanket in visual form (there's no dialogue). The story is a tale of survival that unfolds like a classic fairytale... but ends up being so much more. I feel incredibly fortunate to have seen it on the big screen where it's visual grandeur can truly be appreciated, but it will resonate with you when viewed at any size. Watch it. And watch it without distraction so you can soak it all in the way it was meant to be experienced.

   
HONORABLE MENTIONS...

  • Dunkirk. I didn't think of Christopher Nolan as a historical drama filmmaker, but this is a film which proves his storytelling knows no boundaries. Everything about it is meticulously orchestrated to deliver emotional impact in the best possible way. I saw this in IMAX, which is probably the best way to experience it, but it's really unmissable, glorious filmmaking in any form.
  • The Big Sick. Based on comedian Kumail Nanjiani's real-life relationship with (now-wife) Emily V. Gordon, this is a romantic comedy filled with wit and charm that's made fresh by the cultural divide in the middle of it all. With beats of dark humor popping up from time to time, it's a movie that strives for entertaining substance... and succeeds.
  • I Am Not Your Negro. "The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story." Based on an incomplete manuscript by James Baldwin, this is a telling of that not-so-pretty story. A brilliant, visionary film taking a hard look at race in this country that demands to be seen.
  • Colossal. Where? Where did this come from? I saw no advertising for it when it was in theaters. I only saw it when it popped up on iTunes as an "editor's choice" kind of thing while I was bored and looking for a movie to watch. I was so intrigued by the cast (Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis?) and the concept (movie monsters?) and the reviews (critics absolutely loved it?) that I was compelled to buy it. Loved it. Brilliant in every way.
  • Gifted. I loathe "heartwarming kid movies" and avoid anything that even looks it like the plague. But this was the only movie I hadn't seen on a long flight, so I dug in hoping that Chris Evans would do a decent enough job to salvage it. Imagine my surprise when not only did Evans turn in a phenomenal performance... but the story was really good as well. Oh... and the kid wasn't nearly as annoying as they usually are.
  • It. A pleasant surprise in many ways, I avoided this film in theaters because I didn't see how they could top Tim Curry's amazing take on Pennywise the Clown. Turns out they didn't attempt. to top it... they just went in a different direction entirely. Interestingly enough, this movie is only half the book. I'm guessing that, given the huge box office it did, the second half of the story will make it to screen sometime soon.
  • John Wick: Chapter 2. The original John Wick completely surprised me with how good it was. This one was just as good despite my high expectations. The ending sets us up for a third installment that promises to up the stakes yet again... I'm ready.
  • Kingsman: The Golden Circle. I loved the first film. A lot. The sequel had escalating entertainment value, but really faltered in a number of places. I liked the movie. I wanted to love it. The fact that I didn't has me worried for the future of the franchise.
  • Logan Lucky. Smart. Funny. Surprisingly good entertainment. If you haven't seen it but are looking for a good film to watch, then just watch it. Don't go researching it or even watch a trailer. Let Logan Lucky take you by surprise like it did me.
  • Hidden Figures. A beautiful movie with a flawless cast marred by the fact that we apparently can't have accurate mainstream Black history movies based on real events without tossing in fictional white saviors to make it "feel-good-marketable" in the process.
  • War for the Planet of the Apes. We're in our third movie of the new trilogy and I don't know how they do it. All three of the Planet of the Apes films are good, but this may be the best yet. I honestly want for there to be another one if we're going to get a film like this.
  • Umi Yori Mo Mada Fukaku (After the Storm). This is a film that is intrinsically Japanese in that it is a simple, beautiful movie on the surface... with plunging depths that are only hinted at lurking underneath. Surprisingly, it's perfectly enjoyable just to let the surface wash over you without having to think so much... but there's more to the story waiting if you are game to look for it. Stars Abe Hiroshi, one of my favorite Japanese actors of the moment.

   
HAVEN'T SEEN YET, MIGHT HAVE MADE MY LIST...

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Downsizing
  • The Shape of Water
  • Loving Vincent
  • Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
  • Lady Bird
  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • The Disaster Artist
  • God’s Own Country
  • Loving
  • City of Ghosts
  • Jane: In The Shadow Of Man
  • A Ghost Story
  • Okja

   
NOT AS BAD AS THEY SAY...

  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I went into this movie with such huge expectations... it was to be the spiritual sequel to The Fifth Element for heaven's sake. But it let me down in so many ways. Watching it a second time with zero expectations let me enjoy it for what it was, and I may actually kinda like it now.
  • Ghost in the Shell. As a huge fan of the original manga and animated series/film, I was let down by this ScarJo movie spectacle. On second viewing, the problems are still there... but the amazing visuals are too. I don't hate it. I just wish it could have lived up to its potential.

   
THE WORST...

  • Power Rangers. It starts with a bull masturbation joke and just gets progressively worse from there. The TV show reveled in its cheesiness... the movie tries to take it seriously and failed utterly. Nothing makes sense. Everything is stupid to the point of being offensive. I'm embarrassed for everybody involved.
  • Justice League. I held out no hope for this continuation of the Zack Snyder travesty wrecking the DC Comics Cinematic Universe, and swore I would wait for video. I broke my oath because I was bored while at a work site. I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would... but still hated it. A disjointed, disaster-porn mess with a useless villain that not even Wonder Woman can save. The only thing positive to come out of it was the glimmer of hope that Ezra Miller's "The Flash" could be a fun movie.
  • The Mummy. THIS is what was supposed to kick off the new, improved, and unified "Dark Universe?" So bad. So groan-inducing awful. Tried too hard to capture the fun of the Brendan Fraser version and failed miserably. Really hated everything about it.
  • The Dark Tower. You know your movie is shit when not even having Idris Elba starring in it can save the thing. A confusing, incoherent, poorly-conceived movie where even the action is boring.

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Categories: Movies 2017Click To It: Permalink
   

Comments

  1. martymankins says:

    Oh wow… I saw 8 of the top 12 on your list (haven’t seen 9 through 12 yet) and agree with your choices, even if they might be in a different order on a top movie list for me (one of these days I will have to branch out beyond by top music end of year list and do a top movie list).

    I may be in the minority here, but I really liked Justice League. It might have to do with some Aquaman bias.

    I also watched Hasan Minhaj Homecoming King. So good.

    BTW, The Shape of Water is on your “haven’t seen, might have made my list” twice above.

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