2017 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2017: #5-1

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Okay, this is it!  The grand finale for 2017!  But, first, here’s what you may have missed; click the following links for #25-21#20-16#15-11, and #10-6!  But here we are with the final installment of . . .

The Top 25 Films of 2017

5. Molly’s Game

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I’ve been talking about Molly’s Game quite a bit, lately, and with good reason.  In Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, he crafted an entertaining, exciting, witty, charming, surprising, powerful, and memorable work that hits the ground running (or skiing, as the case may be) and never lets up.  Sorkin’s ace in the hole is the emphatic performance of his lead Jessica Chastain, who grabs the audience by the throat and demands their full attention.  She has a story to tell and she ensures that the viewer has a blast listening.  I know I sure did.  (Original review.)

4. I, Tonya

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If one were to go out and ask anyone on the street over the age of 30 if they know what happened between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, they would almost certainly claim to.  But everybody thinks they know the story.  But director Craig Gillespie wasn’t content with asking people on the street; he went straight to the source.  Or, at least, he went straight to one of the sources: Tonya Harding, herself.  Freely admitting in an opening scrawl that the veracity of the events can be called into question when considering their source, the film then proceeds to give Harding her chance to tell her side of the tale.  And Margot Robbie – not Harding – then proceeds to convince you that it just might be true.  Regardless of who actually wins any given award, no one will talk me out of my stance that Robbie gave the best performance of the year in this film – male or female.  She charms, she annoys, she entertains, she engages . . . and she persuades.  Robbie believes (as is her job) and therefore the viewer believes.  Throw in Gillespie’s inventive filming techniques and I, Tonya becomes an easy top-five film of 2017.  (Original review.)

3. Wonder Woman

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At this point, I don’t know what more I can say about Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman.  The film had it all: action, performances, humor, diversity, freshness, and – most importantly – inspiration.  And that’s what made Wonder Woman so special.  Women could find inspiration in the strong female representation.  In addition to that, everyone could find inspiration in Wonder Woman’s resolve and determination to always do the right thing for everyone, everywhere, every time.  Diana of Themyscira represents hope for absolutely everyone who believes in what’s good and what’s right.  Wonder Woman is my favorite solo comic book movie of all-time and with good reason.  I’m actually grateful to the film and everyone involved in it for helping me to believe, again.  (Original review.)

2. mother!

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Speaking of movies about which I had plenty to say, that was never more true for a film than it was after I first saw Darren Aronofsky’s mother!.  It took a while to compose my thoughts but, once I did, they simply didn’t want to stop!  That’s highly appropriate, though, considering that the film was very much the same way.  Once it starts, it kicks into one gear after another, constantly escalating until it barrels through all traditional film conventions and dares to establish its own identity and make its own bold statement.  Repeated viewings are rewarded with additional insight into the subtext, as well, which is always appreciated.  Jennifer Lawrence absolutely destroys her role with her best performance, yet, and one of the best of the year, while Aronofsky challenges the viewer to become an independent thinker and question what they may have been spoon-fed throughout their entire lives.  Entertaining, shocking, thought-provoking, masterfully constructed, provocative, and wildly entertaining, Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is almost my favorite film of the year.  (Original review.  And see me skewer the Razzies here.)

1. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is my favorite film of 2017 for a multitude of reasons but, to be concise, it’s simply a masterpiece.  The film is a deeply moving and involving revenge thriller unlike any revenge thriller that’s come before.  In this instance, the character vying for revenge, Frances McDormand’s Mildred, is seeking it the legal way, rather than as a vigilante.  Or, at least, she is, initially.  The entire narrative feels gritty, believable, and both heartbreaking and heartwarming as complex characters waver, do good things, make awful decisions, feel remorse, feel justified, and simply behave like actual people who don’t know how to cope with an unimaginable tragedy.  The events that Mildred has been forced to endure are the kinds of things that always happen to other people.  Not you.  Never you.  But what if it was you.  What would you do?  How would you handle it?  Would you retain your soul or lose yourself entirely?  Mildred is always teetering on the edge – walking that fine line.  She is surrounded by an outstanding cast of supporting characters and actors, but Three Billboards is Mildred’s story.  And, in this day and age, it’s a story that could happen to any of us.  (Original review.)

And there it is!  Looking at that top five, it’s pretty clear that women ruled Hollywood in 2017, putting out and taking the leads in great film after great film.  Hopefully the trend will continue into 2018, but all we can do is wait and see.  I’ll be there along the way and I hope you join me!

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2017 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2017: #5-1

2017 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2017: #10-6

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It’s time to crack the top ten of the year!  In case you missed them, click here for #25-21, here for #20-16, and here for #15-11!  And now we get into the top ten of . . .

The Top 25 Films of 2017

10. Ingrid Goes West

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You know those people who can’t watch a movie or even a thirty-minute television show without staring at their phone, nonstop?  Or maybe they pull it out in the middle of a date to check their most recent likes?  Or they live and die by the number of followers they have?  Or perhaps you have that friend with the huge online personality when, in reality, it’s all a façade?  Ingrid Goes West is the dark comedy that they all need to see.  It’s also the dark comedy that everyone who is irritated by them needs to see.  Heck, flat out everybody should see Ingrid Goes West.  It’s the most biting and on-point social satire in years with spot-on performances by Elizabeth Olsen, Aubrey Plaza, and O’Shea Jackson, Jr., not to mention some of the funniest lines of 2017.  Turn this one on, put your phone away, and enjoy laughing at how absurd much of our day-to-day life has become.  (Original review.)

9. Spider-Man: Homecoming

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The announcement that Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures had struck an agreement allowing Marvel to integrate Spider-Man into their Marvel Cinematic Universe was perhaps – without exaggeration – the most exciting film announcement in history.  What is Marvel without Spider-Man (and the Fantastic Four but that’s another post on another day in another year)?  Marvel initially introduced their version of the iconic character in Captain America: Civil War before letting him fly (mostly) solo in his own film, the cleverly titled Spider-Man: Homecoming.  And what fun it was!  Nobody knows Spider-Man better than Marvel.  They turned out a spectacular crowd-pleaser that highlighted everything that has made Spider-Man so popular and enduring for over fifty years while also updating him where necessary and bringing him into 2017 high school culture.  Tom Holland perfectly encapsulated the character and the film reinvigorated the property.  Audiences, Marvel, and Sony all came out winners, here.  (Original review.)

8. A Ghost Story

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A24 always puts out at least one of my favorite films of each year, so it should be no surprise to see another one of their pictures so high on my list.  Simply put, A Ghost Story is unlike any other film I’ve ever seen.  A supernatural drama (not a horror film, not a suspense film, and not a thriller), the film reminds the viewer that no aspects of life are more important than love and time, yet human beings are prone to take both for granted.  Director David Lowery forces the viewer to sit, ponder, and stare life’s challenges straight in the eye.  No avoidance is allowed as a young couple is forcibly separated on the physical plane, but never on the ethereal.  Rooney Mara turns in an especially powerful and memorable performance while barely speaking a word.  If you want something unique and challenging (and why wouldn’t you?), look no farther than A Ghost Story.  (Original review.)

7. Wind River

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Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River packed a lot of punch into a single package.  Based on the true story of a missing Native American woman in Wyoming, the film is not only a blood-pumping thriller with a pair of dynamite performances by leads Elizabeth Olsen (making her second appearance in the top ten) and Jeremy Renner, but also brings awareness to the important issue of unreported missing Native American women.  It’s a spectacular police procedural thriller that also serves as a much-needed public service announcement.  But no other PSAs are going to have this kind of talent behind them, whether it be in front of or behind the camera.  This should have been Elizabeth Olsen’s moment to shine during the current awards season, but the combination of the early release and the ties to Harvey Weinstein (his company produced the film) killed any chances for that.  Nevertheless, Wind River is an important and relevant piece of art that deserves to shine alongside the very brightest of 2017.  (Original review.)

6. Thor: Ragnarok

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I would have never guessed that Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok would end the year sitting outside my top five, but here we are.  That’s in no way an indictment of the film, though, but rather a massive compliment to those that topped it.  Thor: Ragnarok was everything it should have been.  Director Taika Waititi took his experience helming buddy movies (his Hunt for the Wilderpeople in 2016 was virtually perfect) and expanded it into a galloping, riotous, atom bomb of an action comedy.  If I were to do a list of my twenty favorite film characters from 2017 (no!  Don’t ask!  I’m tired!), about six or seven of them would be from this movie.  Thor got to really let loose, Hulk got his spotlight, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie stole scenes like they were bases, Cate Blanchett’s Hela intimidated us all, Korg took audiences by surprise, Karl Urban’s Skurge was unexpectedly poignant, Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster made our skin crawl, and Surtur made our jaws drop.  Thor: Ragnarok may not be number one on my year-end list, but it was the most pure fun I had at the movies all year.  (Original review.)

Okay, that’s it!  Only one part left and it’s coming tomorrow!  Like us on Facebook and share the earlier parts to get your friends caught up for tomorrow’s finale!

2017 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2017: #10-6

2017 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2017: #15-11

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Getting right to it!  Click here for #25-21 and here for #20-16!  And now for the next five in . . .

The Top 25 Films of 2017

15. Wonder

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Maybe I’m a sap.  But if I’m a sap, so is the rest of the world, because virtually everyone who saw Wonder was absolutely enchanted by it – including me.  In the current climate of never-ending negativity, distrustfulness, lying, and general disenchantment with . . . pretty much everything . . . Stephen Chbosky’s Wonder steps up to remind us all of the things that truly matter on a more personal scale and why we shouldn’t lose sight of them or stop fighting for them.  The bigger, more widespread issues are still there and as important as ever.  But family, friends, and basic human decency count just as much.  Augie is the embodiment of that idea and Wonder is one of the true must-see films of 2017.  (Original review.)

14. Coco

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Pixar struck back in 2017, determined to show through Coco that their recently developing reputation suggesting that their best days are behind them is premature.  They succeeded.  Coco is not only visually stunning but also, in classic Pixar form, emotionally stirring.  The film is a true original, with an engaging story, endearing characters, and a powerful payoff that will resonate with viewers of any age, origin, or history.  Though Pixar’s recent missteps aren’t as pronounced as many want to believe, Coco sends a loud and clear message that they aren’t going anywhere and they want some more Oscars.  (Original review.)

 

13. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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Writer-director James Gunn has a lot of fun with his work, but also takes his job very seriously.  Not content to ever make a film that’s pure popcorn, Gunn consistently finds ways to inject truckloads of entertainment into his productions while also providing poignant undertones for the audience to ponder as they leave the theater and head home.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues in that vein as the viewer is bombarded with bombastic action, raucous comedy (most of which lands), and resonant character arcs for all eight main characters.  That’s a lot to accomplish, but Gunn and Marvel pull it off without a hitch.  It’s not quite the instant (and flawless) classic that the original film was, but it’s not far behind and deserves the high praise and hundreds of millions of dollars with which it was rewarded.  (Original review.)

12. Atomic Blonde

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Now it’s getting to the point where I wish every film on the list could have made the top ten.  I easily loved Atomic Blonde enough to happily include it in a year-end Top Ten list.  In another year, it could have made it.  Pure adrenaline and energy from start to finish, Charlize Theron and director David Leitch team up to present a seedy, gritty, @$$-kicker of an eighties throwback film.  It’s an unapologetic kick to the nether regions after which one finds oneself smiling and asking for another, please.  For all the fantastic performances she’s given over the years, this was my personal favorite role for Theron and I would love to think we’ll get a sequel.  Time will tell but, if not (and even if so), Atomic Blonde is one 4k blu-ray from which, with all the repeat viewings, I will definitely get my money’s worth.  (Original review.)

11. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

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Who would have thought, right?  While the trailers and other marketing filled me with confidence that I would enjoy Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, I never expected to love it as much as I actually did.  Jake Kasdan’s loose sequel to 1995’s original Jumanji encapsulates everything that a four-quadrant all-audiences action-comedy should entail.  Much like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it’s got the action (to a lesser scale, but it’s still quality and plentiful), the humor (to a greater degree, this time, and with a higher hit ratio), but it’s also somewhat more accessible.  No previous knowledge of the original film is necessary or even particularly useful.  Audiences can simply walk in, sit down, and enjoy.  When that all combines to create lightning in a bottle, as this movie has (currently at $867 million plus and counting, having once again been number one in North America, this past weekend), then everybody wins.  And that’s what this Jumanji is: a game where everybody wins.

Ohhhhhhh, so close to the top ten for these movies!  But we’re getting to the best of the best, now.  Have you seen your favorite?  Could it still lie ahead?  I’ll be back with the penultimate part, soon!  Until then, like us on Facebook and share with your friends and family!

2017 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2017: #15-11

2017 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2017: #20-16

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No wasting time!  If you don’t know the deal, here is the first part of the countdown with the criteria.  Go check it out then come back here for more of . . .

The Top 25 Films of 2017

20. Get Out

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Jordan Peele’s Get Out blended social commentary with traditional horror to create a new blend of social horror.  The film was primarily sold on its horror elements but earned its reputation and word of mouth based on its intelligence and message.  The whole thing works both literally within the narrative framework of the film as well as metaphorically for those who are willing to be open-minded enough to listen.  On top of that, the whole principal cast turns in spectacular performances.  As a traditional horror film, it’s not quite as suspenseful as others, but looked at through the lens of the victimized, it’s more than scary enough to do the job.  (Original review.)

19. The Post

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Steven Spielberg strikes again with The Post – perhaps the most timely and politically significant film of 2017, if not recent memory.  After brilliantly casting perhaps America’s two most trusted actors in Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep as his leads, Spielberg recounts the true story of the Washington Post’s legal battle with the Nixon administration over the release of the Pentagon Papers.  At a time when current high-ranking politicians are frequently making not-so-veiled threats to attempt to smother the freedom of the press rather than answer for their own sins, the film is a poignant and important reminder of the importance of a free press and the public’s access to information.  And it’s delivered with perfection by a triumvirate of filmmaking legends.  (Original review.)

18. Colossal

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From director Nacho Vigalondo, the Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis vehicle Colossal snuck by almost entirely unnoticed by audiences.  That’s a shame, too, because it offered everything that mainstream audiences tend to look for in their movies: recognizable stars, special effects, comedy, drama, suspense, action, twists, and a poignant and emotional finale.  Hathaway charms her way through the picture, continuing to be one of Hollywood’s most underrated talents, and Sudeikis shows us a side of himself that most of us could have never imagined even existing.  The final product is an entertaining and engaging journey from beginning to end that will almost certainly eventually be elevated to cult status.  (Original review.)

17. It

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Very few adaptations have been made with a love equal to that which is evident within Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s It.  With a brilliant cast and a stark attention to detail and subtext, Muschietti constructed a haunting tale of the dangers of childhood and the power of imagination.  Doubling as a metaphor for how society likes to target and prey upon people’s specific fears, Muschietti conceals commentary within the bloody folds of terrifying horror and strikes a nerve at a visceral level . . ..  And we’re only halfway through.  All we can do for the time being is sit back and patiently await the second chapter.  But we’ll do it with the lights on.  (Original review.)

16. Phantom Thread

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Writer-director has an affinity for crafting stories around those human instincts that we as a species try to suppress and ignore and gloss over.  With Phantom Thread, Anderson addresses the harsh realities of the manipulative nature of relationships and by doing so gives us the most grounded and realistic “romance” film perhaps in all of film history.  Yes, some of the events are a exaggerated for heightened cinematic drama, but the foundations are all true to life, whether we want to admit it or not.  Along the way, Anderson provides one of his two leads, Daniel Day-Lewis, with a fond farewell (at least for now.  I’m not convinced that Day-Lewis is done for good) and the other, Vicky Krieps with a grand (almost) American debut that will hopefully open up many doors for her in the future.  Phantom Thread is a surprising film that starts as one genre and finishes as another but, through Anderson’s talents, does so organically in addition to memorably.  (Original review.)

Okay, that’s it for now!  Spread the list around and keep your eye on Facebook for the next installment!

2017 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2017: #20-16

2017 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2017: #25-21

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Finally!  It’s taken a little longer than usual for me to see all of the films from the previous year that would likely vie for a spot on this list, but I think I’m ready to proceed.  I’ll break the list up into five parts, each with five films, counting backwards (of course).  So, what qualifies a movie to make the list and how are they ranked?  From last year:

What is a “top” film?  A film that I liked on a subjective level?  A film more objectively determined to be of high-quality, regardless of how much I personally did or didn’t enjoy it?  Well . . . it’s both.  The higher the combination of the two, the higher it places on this list.  If these were my 25 “favorite” films, it would be a different list.  If these were what I saw as 2016’s 25 “best” films, it would also be a different list.  These are the films that I’m most likely to both recommend and revisit.  So, here are the 25 films from 2016 that I felt had the strongest mix of quality and entertainment value.  And it’s my list, so just deal.

Okay, no more messing around.  Here are . . .

The Top 25 Films of 2017

25. Logan

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James Mangold’s Logan accomplished a lot with one film.  It brought a long-standing film franchise to an essential end, in the process said goodbye to two fan-favorite actor/role pairings, and introduced a memorable new character from the comics in the form of X-23.  Whether or not her storyline carries on in the wake of Disney’s Fox purchase, the film was a generally thoughtful, touching, and grandiose finale that (mostly) made appropriate use of its R rating and gave audiences a version of Wolverine that they always wanted to see but never thought they would.  (Original review.)

24. Lady Bird

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This one will be higher on most other year-end lists.  And don’t get upset; if I didn’t love it, it wouldn’t be here!  I loved it, I did!  The reason it doesn’t rank higher is simply because I felt it offered very little that hadn’t been seen before in other coming-of-age films.  It didn’t feel as fresh as 2016’s The Edge of Seventeen, nor was it as clever or as entertaining.  But it was a very well-made film with solid performances and direction, and was still more clever and entertaining than most other movies one is likely to see.  Maybe it didn’t resonate with me on a personal level as much as it did with others, but Lady Bird is still a smart, poignant film well worth the attention it’s receiving.  (Original review.)

23. The Shape of Water

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This is another film that will be higher on most other people’s year-end lists.  There is no question that Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water brought audiences a story that hadn’t been seen before – sort of a King Kong tale that takes it to the next narrative level.  For me, it just lacked the energy and cleverness that I look for in this type of film.  Still, it’s certainly good enough to warrant its high praise and to crack my own personal list, as well.  Mature, sophisticated science fiction tales aimed at the more intellectual crowd are rare, and del Toro makes it worth his time and the viewer’s money to come along for the ride.  (Original review.)

22. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

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Oh, the outrage!  A certain sector of viewers revolted against The Last Jedi, claiming it contradicted everything that had come before – particularly in reference to the characterization of Luke Skywalker.  They were wrong, as everything that occurs in the film lines up beautifully with what we’ve seen from Luke and the rest of the Star Wars universe in the past.  This is more of the dreaded Entitled Fan Syndrome wherein “fans” throw a tantrum if a film isn’t exactly what their irrational, specifically personalized, usually boring, and preconceived notions have convinced them it should be.  In reality, the film was a smart, surprising, insightful character study that doubled as a raucous science-fiction escapade.  I do think it suffered from the same issue that Avengers: Age of Ultron suffered from in that it’s missing numerous watercooler moments, which I expect from large-scale blockbusters.  It also takes place over a very short period of time and doesn’t quite advance the story as much as I would like, considering that there are only three parts to the entire tale.  Besides that, it’s deep, it’s fun, and it’s excellently crafted.  (Original review.)

21. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was a popular target among people who don’t actually see movies but like to form an opinion on them, anyway.  Unfortunately, that – coupled with mixed reviews – sank the film at the box office and I don’t see any chance of a sequel.  That’s a shame because the film was a blast, solely crafted for entertainment.  It was fun, it was beautiful, it had two charismatic leads, and it never tried to insist upon itself by forcing in subtext where it didn’t belong.  Valerian was comfortable and confident in its own skin and that translated to the screen in the form of pure quality entertainment.  We won’t see another one, but I’ll continue to enjoy this one in the future.  (Original review.)

Okay, I’ll be back with the next part in the next day or two.  Until then, share and like us on Facebook!

2017 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2017: #25-21

2017 Year in Review – 2017’s Five Best Box Office Bombs

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(Don’t miss the previous 2017 Year in Review columns: 2017’s Top Five Horror Movies2017’s Five Coolest Characters, and 2017’s Five Best Villains!)

Any business venture is a risk, and that doesn’t preclude the movie industry.  There are virtually no guarantees that any one particular film will be a financial success.  Generally speaking, most people assume that if the movie is good, then people will show up to see it, but that is absolutely not true.  Many great films fail to make a profit, for one reason or another.  The films in this list fall under the umbrella of great films that audiences rejected.  Besides being great, though, they are also original, and audiences still refused to reward them with success, despite constant cries of how Hollywood is supposedly out of ideas.  (This column that I wrote on this unfortunate chronic hypocrisy in American audiences touched a nerve and is still my second-most-read post in Movie March history.)

So now, sit back and relax while I yell at you.  Here, my loyal readers, are the five best films of 2017 that you didn’t see in the theater.  Here are . . .

2017’s Best Box Office Bombs

5. Battle of the Sexes

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For a society that goes on about how much they love Emma Stone, how much they love Steve Carrell, how much they love lighter comedic fare, how much they love quality filmmaking, and how much they care about women’s and LGBTQ rights, they sure didn’t support this quality comedic film about women’s and LGBTQ rights starring Emma Stone and Steve Carrell.  Battle of the Sexes is pure gold from start to finish and respectfully, delicately, and lovingly tells the story of one woman single-handedly fighting to win several battles on multiple fronts in a single night.  The film succeeds on every level.  Yet, it has only grossed approximately $12.6 million on a reported $25 million budget.  It deserves better.  (Original review.)

4. Colossal

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Come on, folks.  I understand that this one had a limited theater count and, for some of you, I’ll accept that.  But chances are good you were all at most an hour away from a theater carrying Colossal – and most of you were closer than that.  This is an intelligent action-dramedy starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis about a giant monster wrecking Seoul, South Korea!  A GIANT MONSTER!  This film has brains, heart, charm, laughs, and special effects.  And don’t say you haven’t heard of it because I posted a review that almost everyone ignored.  Nope!  We!  Are in!  A fight!  If you want to begin patching things up, here’s a second chance to not ignore my review!  (Original review.)

3. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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Okay, for this one, you can’t even use the “it wasn’t close to me” excuse.  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (which admittedly should have been titled in such a way that Cara Delevingne’s Laureline received shared top billing) played everywhere.  It was a massive atomic explosion of a science-fiction thriller unlike anything that had come along in a very long time – if ever.  And it was great!  It looked amazing, the leads were charismatic and engaging, the action was over-the-top, inventive, and exciting, the character designs were delightful, and the film did all of the important things right.  But people didn’t see it simply because they hadn’t heard of it before.  So much for desiring “originality.”  Enjoy your future sequels and remakes.  (Original review.)

2. Ingrid Goes West

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Ingrid Goes West was not only the single best movie about modern society’s obsession with social media to come along to date, but one of the best films of the entire year.  Elizabeth Olsen is great as always, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., nearly steals every scene he’s in, and Aubrey Plaza gives the best performance of her career as the three of them alternate between making us laugh and making us shake our fists at them in frustration.  The film serves as a mirror that shows us our own unflattering reflection while offering us some advice in fixing the problem as we move forward.  But you didn’t think about all of that until the film was over because you were be too busy being entertained.  At least, if you saw the film, at all.  Which you didn’t.  (Original review.)

1. mother!

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There are a number of possible reasons why Darren Aronofsky’s mother! failed at the box office (that sounds really weird out of context).  General audiences like to revolt against the more knowledgeable critics, who mostly lauded the film, so maybe that was it.  They also tend to resent overwhelming success and have begun to turn on Jennifer Lawrence, so perhaps that contributed.  Most likely, it’s because the movie was explicitly . . . original.  But that’s not the word audiences use when they’re finally faced with an original Hollywood film like they constantly ask for.  No, the word they use is “weird”.  And, yes, Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is unequivocally, scrumptiously, undeniably weird.  It’s also supremely intelligent.  And enlighteningly thought-provoking.  And flawlessly performed.  And beautifully shot.  And deeply unsettling.  And uncomfortably on point. Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is a stark reminder of our own inner demons and how we often bring them upon ourselves.  And Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, like any good mother, demands more of us than we demand of ourselves, including (but not limited to) intelligence, patience, self-awareness, empathy, understanding, and open-mindedness.  But those without open-mindedness wouldn’t know.  Because they didn’t see it.  (Original review.)

Okay, I’m glad I got that out.  I guess I still love you all (except for one of you.  You know who you are.  Unless you don’t.  . . ..  Discuss.).  But, wow, I wish you’d let me lead you by the hand a bit more often.  You might enjoy the experience.  You might not.  But you’ll at least grow a little bit as a moviegoer by expanding your horizons.  Every one of these films are now available to watch at home.  Give them a try.  Step outside of your comfort zone.

More Year in Review columns are on the way.  I’m kind of waiting on next week’s Oscar nominations to do most of them – certainly the Top 25 of the Year.  I want to see as many nominees as possible, so that list might not come until February.  Until then, I’ll keep doing my regular thing.  I hope you keep clicking and sharing!  Thanks for reading!

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2017 Year in Review – 2017’s Five Best Box Office Bombs

2017 Year in Review – 2017’s Five Best Villains

Best Villains 2017

 

(Before we get started, check out my two previous 2017 Year in Review columns: 2017’s Top Five Horror Movies and 2017’s Five Coolest Characters!)

Everybody loves a great villain.  They push and challenge our heroes to rise above their previous limits and reach new heights.  They can also make films more fun and interesting by pushing the boundaries of what it means to be despicable.  There’s no one way to do a villain “right”, and that’s part of the fun.  This list will reflect a varied take on villainy, from the conflicted to the downright evil.  But all added to the moviegoing experience and elevated the entire project of which they were a part.  It’s never felt so good for these actors to be so bad.  Here are my picks for . . .

2017’s Five Best Villains

NOTE: There will be some unavoidable spoilers in this post.  I’ll minimize them as much as possible, but proceed with caution!

5. Ego (Kurt Russell, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2)

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Oh, the delicate nature of family.  Especially when that family is a Celestial being with nearly limitless power and designs on restructuring all of existence in his own image.  Thanksgiving dinner can get a slight bit awkward.  What makes Ego so great is that he genuinely loves his son Peter.  And his plan also would have succeeded if not for one slight infallibility to which even Celestials aren’t immune: overconfidence in his relationships.  Ego assumes that Peter is completely on board with his plan due to Peter being so romanticized by finally meeting his birth father.  So, Ego reveals the entire truth of his and Peter’s past to Peter, expecting Peter to eagerly accept it.  We have all had relationships where we care for the other person more than they care for us, whether said relationship be romantic, familial, or friendly.  And that moment of realization can be painful.  Especially when you’re a genocidal maniac and the one spurning you is the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy.  Nice try, Ego.  Maybe Thanos will succeed where you failed.  (Original review.)

4. Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes)

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Bobby Riggs is certainly an unconventional choice for a villain.  Is he even a villain?  Perhaps not, but he certainly wants to be.  Riggs voluntarily places himself in the role of villain in order to benefit himself financially.  He doesn’t believe the things he says.  He doesn’t mean the things he does.  He’s simply greedy and understands his audience well enough to know how to get it.  It doesn’t matter to him how he is perceived by others.  He even genuinely cares about his opposition.  But he still goes about embarrassing them and himself as long as it helps him afford a nicer house and a nicer car.  And as Rachel Dawes said in Batman Begins, “It’s not who you are underneath.  It’s what you do that defines you.”  And, if that’s the case, then Bobby Riggs is easily defined as a funny, charismatic, endearing, complex . . . villain.  (Original review.)

3. Hela (Cate Blanchett, Thor: Ragnarok)

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There is no complexity to Cate Blanchett’s Hela.  Hela is a supremely powerful demigod who, unlike Ego, has no particular ties to her family (Thor, in this case).  She rules the Norse underworld and wishes to bring about Ragnarok – the end of Asgard – in order to further populate her realm with vanquished souls and add to her power.  She takes delight in every death she brings about and relishes in pounding Thor into the ground.  All she wants is what she sees as hers.  And she’s powerful enough to get it.  Thor and his “Revengers” are only able to stop her by using some quick thinking and by pitting her against someone else of equal or greater power (although, to be fair, the Hulk never got his shot).  Along the way, Blanchett, herself, has a blast with the role, sinks her teeth in, and delivers one of the more memorable mainstream performances of the year.   Hela appears to have been stopped, for now, but I wouldn’t bet against seeing her pop up again, in the future.  (Original review.)

2. The Armitages (Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Get Out)

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Though a thrilling and entertaining horror-suspense thriller, Get Out primarily serves as a metaphor for much of modern society and the Armitage family represents the worst of us.  The film can be interpreted on many different levels, but what can’t be misconstrued is the pure callousness and hate that radiates from the family by which the unfortunate Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) finds himself surrounded.  Their casual racism is rooted in jealousy and insecurity, something which can be seen on a daily basis in the real world.  Those who allow themselves to be consumed with racism and intolerance are always afraid of what the targets of their hate bring to the table.  They’re afraid of their livelihood, their way of life, or – perhaps most absurd of all – even their country being taken away from them by others who they view as “different” based solely on harmless surface characteristics.  The Armitages concoct a method to nullify those perceived possibilities and to use people of color for their own benefit in a way that goes far beyond anything we’ve seen in film, before.  And, to a degree, they succeed.  The worst kind of villain is the one who succeeds.  Ultimately, the Armitages also serve as a mirror to society and, after seeing the film, potentially and hopefully give those who are not beneficiaries of inherent privileges pause and awareness as they go about their daily lives.  So, in being so ruthlessly, unforgivably horrible on-screen, they may hopefully enact change for the better in at least one person, somewhere.

1. Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård, It)

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I really wrestled with this.  I almost put the Armitages in the number one spot.  But, when it came down to it, I just couldn’t.  Pennywise is the embodiment of evil, reserving his killing, maiming, and eating exclusively for children due to their purity.  And he’s not exactly remorseful over these acts, either.  He doesn’t bother putting his food sources down humanely.  Pennywise goes all out to hunt children both for food and for sport.  Bill Skarsgård’s performance is one for the ages, as well, standing tall beside the great Tim Curry and helping craft the film into something truly memorable.  Ultimately, Pennywise gets the number one spot because he was the only villain on this list who was the title character in their film, which he then launched to a staggering $698 million worldwide gross on a $35 million budget.  When a villain has that sort of appeal, how can they not be the best of the year?  (Original post.)

Whew!  This was a tough one.  Not only was ordering the top five extremely difficult, but even choosing them proved troublesome (there were a few others I had in mind that I hated to leave off).  I hope you enjoyed it and I’ll be back, sometime soon, with more looks back at 2017 in film!

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2017 Year in Review – 2017’s Five Best Villains