Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Best And Worst Movies Of 2017

Hey, it's 2018, so what better time to look backward and make a list of The Best And Worst Movies of 2017!

I saw a whopping fifty six movies (!) in the cineplex in 2017, very few of which were actually worth watching. Out of that number there were a scant two or three that I'd actually consider good, tons of mediocre ones, and several that should immediately be shot into the sun.


In past years I had a tendency to go easy on movies and grade them wayyyy too high. I was determined to correct that flaw in 2017. Overall I think I did a much better job last year, giving out much more appropriate and accurate scores. There's always room for improvement though, so I'll continue to strive to do even better in 2018.


OK, on with the list. Needless to say, this is a list of the movies that I saw last year. I have no doubt there were much better and far worse films out there in 2017. And even more needless to say, the following are my opinions, and as such are completely subjective. Your mileage may vary greatly.


WORST MOVIE OF 2017
By the gods, there were so many choices. The cineplex was littered with hundreds of awful, awful films last year, but there were several that stood out from the pack.


Underworld: Blood Wars
Can you believe they've made SIX of these things now? For some reason I've dutifully sat through every one them in the cineplex, despite the fact I don't particularly like them and can't remember a single thing that happened in any of the previous ones.

This installment is yet another forgettable entry in this interminable franchise. Like all the others it's filled with leather-clad people trying to kill one another in between bouts of droning on and on about bloodlines and rights of succession. It's also incredibly dark and murky, most likely to hide the subpar CGI werewolves. Worst of all, the movie doesn't end so much as it just stops, as if something bad happened behind the scenes. For die hard fans of the series only I advise everyone else to skip it. 

I give it a C-, which in hindsight feels a bit high.

The Bye Bye Man
A nonsensical and scare-free fiasco of a "horror" movie that somehow managed to gross $26 million against its tiny $7 million budget, making it a moderate hit, proving that the general public will truly sit through anything.

The Bye Bye Man could have been an effective little horror film if only it had a better script, adequate actors and a more competent director. It tries to set up a new horror icon ala Freddy Krueger, but fails spectacularly. Nothing about its mythology is ever adequately explained, resulting in a muddled and incoherent mess. Say "bye bye" to this movie and re-watch Nightmare On Elm Street again instead. 

I gave this film my first D+ of the year! Sadly it wouldn't be the last.

The Dark Tower
What do you get when you take a popular EIGHT book horror-fantasy series and try to distill it all down into a 95 minute film? A freakin' recipe for disaster, that's what.

The Dark Tower is a bland and mediocre film that fails in every measurable sense, as newcomers will have little or no idea what's going on, and fans of the novels will be infuriated by how much was left out. Skip it and read the books instead. 

I gave it a C-, which seems about right. If I were a fan of the books, I'd have probably saddled it with an F!

9/11
Hey, you wanna hear a great idea? Write a screenplay about one of the darkest days in American history and then cast known 9/11 conspiracy theorist Charlie Sheen in the lead role! It's sheer genius!

If you don't believe me when I say this movie is bad, then let the box office speak for itself. 9/11 was in theaters for a grand total of THREE DAYS, in which it managed to make a whopping $170,000! Nope, that's not a typo. This film made less than the price of the average house!

$170,000! Just think about that! Given an average ticket price of $10, that means only 17,000 people in the entire world paid to see this cinematic turd! Jesus Christ, most colleges have higher enrollments than that!

9/11 is a cheap, mawkish disaster movie set against the background of the September 11 attacks. It has absolutely nothing to say about the events of that day, as it's more concerned with its soap opera plotting than in historical accuracy. Worst of all is the fact that the movie uses actual footage of the 9/11 attacks in lieu of special effects (!!!), which is beyond offensive. 

I give it a well deserved D+.

Phoenix Forgotten
A found footage film about a famous "real life" UFO sighting seems like a can't-miss scenario, right? Wrong.

Phoenix Forgotten is yet another in a long, long, LONG line of imitators inspired by The Blair Witch Project. This one tries to hide its obvious roots by adding a faux documentary to the mix, which does nothing but pad the run time. Do yourself a favor and forget about Phoenix Forgotten (see what I did there?). 

I give it a D+. D for dick, which is what I'd like to kick this movie in.

The Snowman
Hey, remember Seven, and its gruesome and shocking twist ending? How about Silence Of The Lambs, with its charismatic serial killer Hannibal Lecter? Would you like to see another film in the same vein as those classics? Me too, but unfortunately The Snowman isn't it.

The Snowman is a dull, dismal and joyless murder mystery filled with unlikable characters, choppy editing and an incomprehensible plot. Worst of all, it's just plain dull. It was written and directed by a talented group of folks who've done good work in the past, which makes their failure here all the more puzzling. What should have been a tense psychological thriller like Seven ended up being a deadly dull snooze fest. Do yourself a favor and give it a miss. 

I gave this dreary and dreadful film a D+.

Honorable Mentions:

Geostorm
Believe it or not I was actually somewhat excited to see this film, as I was hoping for a fun, "guilty-pleasure" popcorn movie in the style of Independence Day or 2012. Unfortunately Geostorm is a murky and incomprehensible mess that feels uninspired and downright dull.

Given the state our world's in today, it's probably time we retired the "Worldwide Disaster" genre. In these days of climate change and deadly weather, watching epic scenes of planet-ending destruction just isn't as much fun as it used to be.

Geostorm feels like a pastiche of at least five or six similar films. Warner Bros. reportedly spent millions on reshoots to improve the film, but they needn't have bothered— no amount of cash could save this soggy disaster. 

I gave it a middling and disappointing C.

The Mummy
Universal Studios invented the concept of the shared movie universe way back in the 1940s. That means they should have had no trouble starting up a new monster-filled "Dark Universe," right? Wrong.

Universal forgets their horror roots, as they attempt to turn The Mummy into a superhero origin story. Even worse, it spends most of its runtime trying to set up a cinematic universe instead of concentrating on telling a compelling and coherent story. It all adds up to a bland, forgettable and disappointing film that's as lifeless as the titular character. Stick with any of the many previous versions instead. 

I gave it a very appropriate C-.

47 Meters Down
1975's Jaws is one of the best films ever made. It's also one of the worst, because it inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of sub-par shark-filled knockoffs. Like this one!

47 Meters Down is a survival horror film that's light on thrills, scares and, well, horror. Worst of all, for a film that's ostensibly about sharks, there're very few of them on display. In fact the biggest danger in the movie isn't from man-eating fish, but from shady tour guides with dilapidated boats. The movie's also filled with nonsensical and inaccurate "science" that'll have scuba enthusiasts in the audience rolling their eyes till they sprain 'em. 

I gave it a C-.

AND THE WINNER FOR WORST MOVIE OF 2017:

The Bye Bye Man
This was a tough choice for me. I really wanted to award the prize to 9/11— not just because it's an awful movie, but for the fact that it uses actual TV footage of the disaster in lieu of special effects! You can't get much sleazier than that! Then I realized that virtually no one saw the goddamned thing besides me, so calling it out was kind of pointless.

So I'm giving the honor of Worst Movie Of 2017 to The Bye Bye Man, due to its sheer incompetence in every measurable sense. Congrats! Don't See It, Don't Watch It!

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MOST DISAPPOINTING MOVIE OF 2017
2017 produced a ton of movies that looked promising, but unfortunately crashed and burned on arrival. Once again it was hard to narrow down the field to just a few contenders.


Ghost In The Shell
A live-action adaptation of the popular anime, which was based on the best selling manga.

The only thing anyone will ever remember about this film is the "whitewashing" controversy surrounding the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the main character. Sadly, this ended up being much ado about nothing, as the film has far worse problems than the color of the lead actress' skin. 

Ghost In The Shell is visually stunning and filled with amazing images, but it features a muddled script that feels like it was written by a first year philosophy student. It raises questions about the nature of existence, but can't be bothered to answer them as it's too preoccupied with action setpieces. If you're really interested in the story, do yourself a favor and watch the anime instead. 

Sadly, I gave it a C.

Power Rangers (2017)
The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers was a HUGE cultural touchstone in the early 1990s, so filming a modern, big budget update seemed like a brilliant idea.

Unfortunately Krispy Kreme Presents Power Rangers somehow took a colorful, exciting and beloved property and turned it into a dull, dour, desaturated teen angst-fest, that's completely devoid of any sense of fun whatsoever. 

Lionsgate Studios seemed genuinely embarrassed to be making a Power Rangers movie, as the titular superheroes don't even show up in costume until the final twenty minutes of the movie's interminable 124 minute runtime. 

Throw in some of the worst production design I've ever seen and product placement that actually becomes a goddamned plot point and you have one of the worst films of the year. Skip this snorefest and go watch the TV series again. 

I give it a very generous C.

It Comes At Night
An alleged "horror" film that's the cinematic equivalent of watching paint dry. 

It Comes At Night is a low budget, slow-burn film that sputters and comes to an abrupt stop in its third act. I wanted to like it, but unfortunately my enjoyment was tainted by the highly misleading marketing, which promised a horror film but instead delivered a survivalist family drama. There's no monster, no zombies, no ghouls, no nothing. No "It" that comes at night. 

In fact there's no real plot, as little or nothing happens in the entire film. The highlight comes late in the film, when the characters argue over whether or not someone left a door open. That's pretty much it!

I gave it a C, and it was lucky to get that!

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets
I had very high hopes for this movie, as I've been a big fan of the comic book for years. And who better to bring the comic's imaginative visuals to life than visionary director Luc Besson?

Unfortunately something went very wrong with ValerianBesson was so intent on capturing the look and feel of the comic that he dropped the ball when it came to little things like characterization, story and most of all, heart. Visually the film is amazing, but it feels cold and ultimately empty. It's all flash with little or no substance. 

Besson attempted to cram several issues of the comic into one film, which resulted in a muddled, nearly incomprehensible mess. Even worse are the two leads, who were both horribly miscast. Who the hell looks at actor Dane Dehaan and thinks, "Sci-Fi Action Hero?"

Maybe Luc Besson needs to study the Guardians Of The Galaxy films to learn how to do thrilling space opera with compelling characters. 

I gave Valerian a B- out of affection for the source material, but it honestly deserved a C+.

War For The Planet Of The Apes
It seems to be a pattern in Hollywood. Any time there's a trilogy, the first film will be pretty good, the second will be amazing, and the third will almost always be crap (think the Star Wars, Back To The Future and original Spider-Man franchises).

Sadly, this pattern holds true for War For The Planet Of The Apes. This third installment is a big step backwards for the franchise, and a disappointing finish to the trilogy. Everything that made Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes great has been turned on its head and dumbed down here, resulting in a film that's mediocre at best. For completists only. I

I hated to do it, but I gave it a C+.

Honorable Mentions:

Justice League
One would think a film starring six of DC's greatest characters would be a sure-fire, billion dollar box office hit. One would be wrong.

Justice League was a disaster from frame one, and it's obvious that Warner Bros. doesn't understand any of their iconic comic book characters, and have absolutely no idea what they're doing. Add to that the fact that it was shot by two different directors with WILDLY different styles, and you get a sloppy, incoherent mess of a Franken-film.

Despite its many, many shortcomings, oddly enough it feels like the movie's trying its level best, but failing miserably. It's like a clumsy toddler who swings over and over at a t-ball but can't seem to hit it. 

I gave it a middling and well-deserved C.

The Lost City Of Z
Talk about false advertising! The trailer promised an Indiana Jones-type jungle adventure, filled with old school action and setpieces. Instead we got a slow moving character study about a flawed man obsessed with discovery and glory, who undertakes numerous expeditions that all fail miserably.

Maybe I should just stop watching movie trailers altogether, as they almost always lead to disappointment these days.

As with all biopics, the vast majority of this movie is fabricated. I wish I could judge it as a piece of fiction, but I can't get past the fact that it's filled with misinformation and outright lies.

I gave it a B-, but it deserved a C.

Jigsaw
I have an odd history with the Saw franchise. I avoided all the movies for years, as they just looked too grim and vile to be entertaining. I finally watched them all in 2017 when they popped up on Amazon Prime, and found they weren't nearly as bad as I imagined. Jigsaw was the first film in the series that I ever saw in the theater.

The marketing campaign promised a "bold new direction" for the franchise, which seemed like a good move to me. Unfortunately this was nothing but a pack of filthy lies. Jigsaw is a tired retread that feels less like it was cobbled together from clips of the previous films. 

It's also filled with baffling plot holes, coincidence and convenience. The storyline is virtually incomprehensible, as the filmmakers are forced to resort to increasingly convoluted methods to include the late John Kramer in the grisly proceedings. A film for completists only. 

I gave it a generous C.

AND THE WINNER FOR MOST DISAPPOINTING MOVIE OF 2017:

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets
This film had a brilliant director, a huge budget and decades of material from which to draw. It should have been the A New Hope of the 21st Century. Instead it came out more like The Phantom Menace. Feh. And now it'll be decades before anyone even attempts to make another Valerian movie. How disappointing.

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MOST SURPRISING MOVIE OF 2017
Every now and then a film will look like a sure-fire dud, but will actually surprise me by being much better than I expected.

Wonder Woman
I had absolutely zero expectations for this film, as I've hated all the other DCEU movies so far. Happily, Wonder Woman turned out to be a fun, action-packed superhero origin story.

It's not perfect though, as it features an underwritten villain and falls apart in the third act, but it's still worth a look. Sadly it's likely too dark and violent for the young girls who're most likely to look up to the character. Try and ignore all the controversy surrounding the film and just enjoy it for what it is. 

I gave it a solid B.

Kong: Skull Island
After Peter Jackson's ultra-serious and overly bloated 2005 remake, I was honestly expecting a disaster here. Fortunately Kong: Skull Island is an old school, action-packed monster movie that's a heck of a lot of fun. 

Unlike the 2014 Godzilla, this film isn't ashamed of its source material and actually gives us a good look at the titular monster! What a concept!

I gave it a B.

It
I'm one of the few people on Earth who wasn't impressed by the 1990 It TV miniseries, so I thought this big budget theatrical adaptation would be a box office bomb. Thankfully I was wrong.

It is one of the better Stephen King adaptations I've seen in a long time, and actually contains a few genuine scares. It's not perfect, but it gets more right than wrong, giving us a legitimately terrifying Pennywise. Amazingly it's rated R, which is a rarity in these days of watered down PG-13 "horror" films. 

I gave it a good solid B.

Happy Death Day
I was expecting this film to be yet another forgettable, watered-down PG-13 slasher pic. I was very pleasantly surprised when it turned out much better than it had any right to.

It borrows elements liberally from Groundhog Day, but actually manages to put a new and interesting spin on them. It falls apart a bit late in the third act, but it's still worth a look. I

I gave it a B.

Honorable Mention:


Monster Trucks
The trailer feels like it's a parody, and the film became something of a punchline in 2017. Surprisingly, it's nowhere near as bad as you've likely heard. 

Monster Trucks is a fun, well-made, fairly well-written kids' film that feels like a throwback to Spielbergian movies of the 1980s. Unfortunately its inflated budget means it's never going to turn a profit, making it a huge financial flop for Paramount. 

Since this is ostensibly a film for children, I was a bit more lenient with it and gave it a B-.

AND THE WINNER FOR MOST SURPISING MOVIE OF 2017:

It
As I said above, I reeeeeally hated that 1990 miniseries, so I had little or no hope for this new version. Happily it turned out very well. I even saw it twice in the theater!

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BEST MOVIE OF 2017
As usual there weren't a ton of choices here, but a few excellent contenders stood out from the pack.

Get Out
I was a little puzzled when I was that comedian Jordan Peele was directing a horror film. Happily he knew what he was doing, and delivered one of the best movies of the year. Even better, the film's actually about something, which is rare in the cineplex these days. 

I gave it a well deserved B+.

Colossal
A quirky, little-scene film that's a bizarre mashup between an indie relationship drama and a kaiju movie, that somehow manages to work.

Oddly enough the film stuck with me, and I found myself still thinking about it days later. That's definitely a rarity these days, when most cookie cutter studio films fade from my mind as I walk through the theater parking lot. It falls apart toward the end, but overall it's a well-written and well-acted film that I highly recommend. 

I gave it a B, but it deserved a B+ or even an A-.

Blade Runner 2049
If ever a film didn't need a followup, it's Blade Runner. I expected a dumbed-down, big budget studio-interfering disaster, but director Denis Villeneuve delivered a classic that's as good or even better than the original.

Blade Runner 2049 is a thoughtful, intelligent and well-made sequel. Instead of rehashing the same plot, it expands on the story in a logical and meaningful way, which is a rarity in Hollywood these days. Naturally, since it's something of a thinking man's film, it tanked at the box office, as the texting teens in the cineplex couldn't look up from their phones long enough to give it a chance. 

It clocks in at a whopping two hours and forty three minutes, but thankfully doesn't ever drag like the original. 

I gave it a very rare A-.

The Disaster Artist
A very good movie about the making of a very bad one!

The Disaster Artist is a fun and enjoyable film about friendship, failure and success, and one of the best times I've had at the cineplex in many months. It's similar to Ed Wood, and despite its bizarre subject, is one of the most accurate biopics I've ever seen. 

If I had one gripe, it's that the film concentrates too much on the making of The Room and not enough on the relationship between Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau. Other than that, it's darned near perfect.

I gave it an enthusiastic B+.


The Shape Of Water
An adult fairy tale from writer/director Guillermo del Toro, in which the monster finally gets the girl (and vice versa).


Del Toro's been pretty hit or miss with me in the past. I find some of his films incredible, while others are passable at best. Happily The Shape Of Water is his best work yet! It's filled with wonderful performances, features a meticulously crafted story and is incredibly emotional.


It also looks amazing, as all of del Toro's films generally do. Somehow the film's budget was just $19 million, but it looks like it cost ten times that!

Due to its bizarre limited engagement schedule, the film didn't show up in my neck of the woods until January 2018. Heck, I haven't even had time to write a review of it yet! Because of that I considered not including it in this list, but it's up for a slew of 2017 Oscars, so apparently it belongs on the 2017 list anyway.

I give it an A

Honorable Mention:

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
I know, I know, what the heck's a superhero movie doing on this list?

Hear me out— Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is one of the more entertaining movies I've seen in god knows how long, and is incredibly fun to watch. It's also oddly emotional and moving, as writer/director James Gunn somehow takes these incredibly silly characters and turns them into real, flesh and blood people that the audience cares about. Seriously, I came perilously close to choking up a bit at the end, which is something no movie's caused me to do since... maybe Old Yeller?

I gave it an A, which in hindsight was probably a bit too high. It probably deserves an A- or B+.

AND THE WINNER FOR BEST MOVIE OF 2017:


The Shape Of Water
Hands down, it's the winner. Definitely the best movie of 2017, even though I saw it in 2018. Do yourself a favor and catch it while it's still in theaters!

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For the record, here are all the movies I saw in 2017. If you want to read any reviews you might have missed, you'll have to search for 'em. I ain't got time to add links to forty seven movies!

Passengers
Underworld: Blood Wars
The Bye Bye Man
Hidden Figures
Split
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Monster Trucks
Rings
xXx: Return Of Xander Cage
John Wick: Chapter 2

The Great Wall
Logan
Get Out
The Belko Experiment
Kong: Skull Island
Life
Ghost In The Shell
Power Rangers
The Fate Of The Furious
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Phoenix Forgotten
Free Fire
The Lost City Of Z
King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword
ALIEN: Covenant
Wonder Woman
It Comes At Night
The Mummy
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Baby Driver

47 Meters Down
Spider-Man: Homecoming
War For The Planet Of The Apes
Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets
Colossal
Atomic Blonde
The Dark Tower
Dunkirk
Logan Lucky
It

9/11
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Flatliners
Blade Runner 2049
Happy Death Day
The Snowman
Justice League
Geostorm
Jigsaw
Thor: Ragnarok

The Foreigner
Daddy's Home 2
The Mountain Between Us
Murder On The Orient Express
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The Disaster Artist

The Shape Of Water (Technically it came out in 2017, but due to its limited distribution schedule, it didn't hit my town until 2018)

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