Movies: The Year in ReviewDec 31, 2017
I’m an unashamed comic book movie fan, something I’ve never hidden. But let’s be honest, as much fun as it is to cheer on the derring-do of my all-time favorite superhero (it’s always been Spider-Man, friends)…it’s danged near impossible to include comic book films on a “Best Movies of the Year” list. That’s why I like to break my end of the year lists up as follows:
FAVORITE MOVIES OF THE YEAR
Spider-Man: Homecoming — Sony did the right thing in letting Kevin Feige and Marvel advise them on yet another web-slinger reboot. Tom Holland nails the high school version of Spidey I grew up with and Michael Keaton gives one of the best super-villain performances of any Marvel movie.
Thor: Ragnarok — from the Shakespearean introduction of Asgard’s mightiest hero by Kenneth Branagh to Taiki Waititi’s tongue-in-cheek and colorful chapter…you’ve come a long, long way, Odinson. For those of you who griped that it was “too funny” for the God of Thunder, I have one question: why is it still playing in most theaters two months after it debuted?
John Wick: Chapter Two — a fascinating revisit to the underworld of the assassin so deadly that he’s the one you call to kill the bogeyman. Keanu Reeves fills this role as perfectly as he did Neo in The Matrix and the intricate world of killers-for-hire comes into focus in strangely-balanced detail. Can’t wait for John Wick: Chapter Three.
Logan Lucky — it’s “Ocean’s 11” for rednecks as Steven Soderbergh shows us how an out-of-luck West Virginia dad rounds up an odd team of bandits to pull off a big-time heist of Charlotte Motor Speedway while a NASCAR race is underway. You’ll forget Adam Driver was ever Kylo Ren and Daniel Craig washes away his James Bond image with a Bang, Joe Bang (I’m pretty sure Soderbergh named him that on purpose).
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — Peter Quinn/Star Lord and his daddy issues lead the oddest family down another save-the-galaxy-from-destruction moment. As Rocket gleefully notes, “Now we’ll REALLY be able to jack up our prices!” James Gunn fills the sequel with plenty of humor, classic rock, and special effects. More than enough to satisfy.
MOST DISAPPOINTING MOVIES OF THE YEAR
The Dark Tower — instead of the epic Stephen King series fans were expecting we ended up with a weaker version of “The Last Action Hero.” Hard to believe Columbia Pictures could waste the perfect casting of Idris Elba (The Gunslinger) and Matthew McConaughey (The Man in Black)…but they did.
The Shape of Water — Guillermo del Toro is a genius, and there is so much to love about the sumptuous fable he has crafted here, especially the call to compassion and peace. Sally Hawkins delivers an Oscar-worthy performance. But the story is uncharacteristically predictable and features a paper-thin villain (Michael Shannon might have well kept on his Zod costume from “Man of Steel).
Colossal — fascinating concept about a New York City party girl recovering from a break-up who slowly realizes she somehow controls a “kaiju” (giant monster…think: Godzilla) that is trashing Seoul. In spite of a nice subplot about confronting bullies, the movie lumbers to a limp conclusion.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard — Ryan Reynolds as a security expert and Samuel L. Jackson as a hitman. What could go wrong? A lot, apparently. The chemistry between the two snaps and pops but ultimately fizzles.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets — fantastic images on the screen. Beautifully conceived and executed. Then Beeson and crew destroyed it all with the worst lead casting decision since 1956 when someone thought John Wayne would be great as Genghis Khan.
BEST MOVIES OF THE YEAR
Dunkirk — Christopher Nolan’s tale of the rescue of hundreds of thousands of British troops stranded on the beach at Dunkirk during WWII is non-linear storytelling at its best. Strangely subdued for a wartime movie with moments of devastating action.
Coco — Pixar survives the House of Mouse to deliver yet another animated emotional tale. It’s worth going back and rewatching 1995s “Toy Story” to see just how far 3D animation has come. Filled with utterly believable characters, vibrant colors, and perfect songs, this story of the importance of family will stick with you long after you leave the theater.
The Big Sick — based on the real-life romance between stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani and screenwriter Emily Gordon, this is as funny and perceptive as rom-coms ever get. Kumail essentially plays himself, pulled between his love for Emily and his traditional Muslim family. Things are complicated when Emily contracts a serious illness.
Lady Bird — coming of age stories are a regular part of the Hollywood landscape, but rarely are they as perfect as this. A year in the life of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson as she struggles to leave adolescence behind while dealing with her strong-willed mom. Perfect script and direction by Greta Gerwig matched with perfect performances by Saoirse Ronan (Christine) and Laurie Metcalf (Marion). Polish the Oscars.
The Disaster Artist — James Franco revisits “The Room,” universally acknowledged as the worst movie ever made. It would have been easy to make fun of Tommy Wiseau, the man behind that disaster, but Franco pulls off an affectionate and charming take as actor and director.
WORST MOVIES OF THE YEAR
Kong: Skull Island — should’ve been titled “Hollywood Suits in a Room Dream Up a Way to Cash in on Marvel’s Extended Universe Concept with the Only Property They Own: Giant Monsters.” Yeah, it’s a long title, but it’s more interesting than this bloated and illogical waste.
The Mummy — the sequel is “Hollywood Suits in a Room Dream Up a Way to Cash in on Marvel’s Extended Universe Concept with the Only Property They Own: Old Time Monsters.” Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are rolling over in their cinematic graves.
Transformers: The Last Knight — clearly Michael Bay spent way too much time playing with robots growing up.
mother! — I’m all for people working out their issues and beliefs about God. But Darren Aronofsky's conclusions are so far from the truth and so cruel that they become genuinely revolting, especially when translated into allegorical film work.
Geostorm — what happened to the Gerard Butler we loved in “3oo”??? At least Bruce Willis and the cast of “Armageddon” can rest easy knowing they’ve been knocked from their number-one slot as “The Most Laughable Sci-Fi Movie Ever.”