Monday, February 05, 2018

2017 Films

So! Between the various streaming services I subscribe to, online rentals, airplane movies, and most significantly the fact that partway through the year I purchased a MoviePass (still have it, and I'm loving it), turns out I saw quite a few movies last year. Partway through the process I got to ranking them, and I figured I'd share my list, just for fun.

A note on my ranking system: I generally considered typical qualities of each film--mainly the writing, directing, acting, and story--and, for the most part, this list adheres to those criteria. But after everything was said and done, especially when some films were too close to call, the ultimate decision factor basically became "how much would I want to see this film a second (or third, or fourth) time?" Put another way, how much did I genuinely enjoy the experience? While receiving high marks in my typical criteria usually translates to me enjoying a film, there are other factors (genre, music, relevance, and yeah, sure, my mood, etc.) that contribute as well. So, while this list is definitive for me, and I welcome anyone's comments and dissensions, don't you dare tell me I'm wrong. This is my list. If you want a definitive list, go make your own, yo.

I'll start with the worst and make my way to the best, because drama.

45. Ghost in the Shell
I wanted to like this movie, which maybe is why I hated it so much. I'm not familiar with the source material at all, which likely contributes to how much I didn't like it. But yikes.

44. The Circle
I only rate this one better than Ghost in the Shell because (1) I had no expectations, and (2) Emma Watson.

43. Geostorm
I'm a sucker for disaster movies, but not even the genre saved this one. It was bad.

42. The Dark Tower
I really wanted to like this one, because (1) Stephen King--I mean, I'm a big fan, and this is his epic fantasy series which is the genre we share, so yeah, but also (2) Idris Elba, who is perhaps my favorite actor in this day and age, and to a lesser extent (3) Matthew McConnaughey (WOW is that difficult to spell). Elba made it palatable, barely, but otherwise this was an abysmal film.

41. Split
I don't know what is going on with M. Night Shyamalan, but ever since his initial wave of decent films (The Sixth Sense, Signs, and Unbreakable) it always seems like he's trying either too hard or not at all. This one was the former.

40. The Mountain Between Us
I found the writing particularly uninteresting in this film, mainly--once again, despite the presence of Idris Elba. Dude needs to get into some better movies! (Actually I saw him in Molly's Game earlier this year and not only was that a decent film overall, but Elba was pretty good in it, too.)

39. The Foreigner
It was cool to see Jackie Chan on the big screen--it had been a while for me. Other than that, however, this one was pretty forgettable.

38. My Little Pony
Saw this one with my two-year-old daughter, and it easily had more story than every film above it on my list, and probably a lot of films below it, too. In short, it was pretty decent. The only reason it ranks so low on my list is that it just isn't my particular taste.

37. Flatliners
I like Nina Dobrev. I really like Ellen Page. Neither could really help this film. Flatliners had some semi-decent scary moments, but that was about all it had going for it. Very little in the plot and character department.

36. Kong: Skull Island
This is probably the first movie on the list where the enjoyment factor (barely) outweighed whatever negatives it brought to the table. I thought it was fun. Not much beyond that, but it was fun.

35. F8 of the Furious
Meh. Another day, another F&F film. Needed more Dwayne Johnson (doesn't everything?).

34. Justice League
Yikes. My expectations were high (for a DC film, which is to say I hoped it would be coherent), especially after Wonder Woman (which you will find much MUCH later on my list), and, what can I say, I was disappointed. Steppenwolf was the biggest problem with the film. Ezra Miller's the Flash was maybe the best part of it. The schism between Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon's visions was painfully obvious. It was rough, and probably deserves to be lower on my list, but, well, Ezra Miller/Gal Godot I guess?

33. King Arthur
This one almost certainly belongs lower on my list, but hey, I just really enjoyed it. It's my genre, first of all (or at least it is sometimes, it sort of wishy-washes its way around a few different sub-genres but whatever), so I sort of felt like I had a stake in the game, and it did have a number of cool elements. Acting, writing, and general story were whatever, though, to be honest.

32. Alien Covenant
Thinking back on it I honestly cannot even tell the difference between this and Prometheus in my head, other than that Prometheus had more of the big Engineer dudes. I think? I don't even know. I find the character of David tedious, too. It did have some good action sequences, however, and it was pretty cool to see some legit xenomorphs in action with modern effects.

31. The Void
A decent attempt at a modern Lovecraftian tale, but the Lovecraftian aspects were really all it had going for it. It didn't have much to say, which disappointed me (and I find one of the more compelling aspects of Lovecraftian stuff--even if the thing a work is trying to say is that it's pointless to say anything, if you catch my drift--but none of that here).

30. Murder on the Orient Express
I enjoyed this film. A bit lacking in story and character, but the acting and visuals really engaged me.

29. Beauty and the Beast
Again, because I'm a fan of Emma Watson, I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did. It was a lot of fun, don't get me wrong, but I'm not sure why I'd ever go back and watch this over the original animated Disney version. (Particular disappointment: the grandeur of Belle singing "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere" was completely lost in this version.)

28. Baby Driver
Such a fun movie. Good acting, great action sequences, good writing. But, to paraphrase a friend, it was utterly inconsequential. I haven't thought of it once since seeing it except when I've seen it on this list in passing, as I compare it to other films. I didn't find anything of lasting value in it, and that's why it's relatively low on the list. That said, while Kong marked the point in the list where enjoyability started to outweigh bad qualities, Baby Driver I think marks the point where I think pretty much everything from here on out is a strong, and (usually--see mother!) enjoyable film.

27. Life
Combine slightly better versions of Alien Covenant and The Void, and you get Life. I really enjoyed this one, especially the surprising-but-inevitably ending.

26. mother!
Thought-provoking, disturbing, horrifying, and super-weird. I don't know what else to say about it. Though it is sort of in the middle of my list, which means I thought it was an okay film, I would only recommend it to a select few people. You probably aren't one of them, so don't bother.

25. Ingrid Goes West
A quiet, under-the-radar film, but a decent take on social media. Sort of a mild, movie-length version of a Black Mirror episode. Solid performances from Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen.

24. Happy Death Day
Groundhog Day is one of my favorite films, and I have a special place in my heart for movies the take that trope and run with it (particularly Edge of Tomorrow, and ARQ, just off the top of my head). Happy Death Day does a surprisingly decent job with that trope, too. Not a perfect film, but I found it very enjoyable.

23. Atomic Blonde
This one would rate much higher on my list if it weren't for the entire first half. The second half was surprising, brutal, and crazy in all the best ways. The first half wasn't really any of those things (maybe a bit brutal I guess, but that's it). I was one of the folks who was skeptical of the fight scenes in this one based on the trailers, but turns out I really enjoyed them, particularly the ones toward the end. It was exhausting to watch, and I loved it.

22. It Comes at Night
Some great acting and character work here, along with good writing and story development. I...liked the ambiguity, but not as much as I've loved ambiguity in other things. That probably makes no sense to anyone but me, but there it is. It was quite good, but not quite great.

21. The Last Jedi
Yikes. This was maybe the most problematic film for me to place on this list. The first time I saw it, I really enjoyed it, despite some pretty clear flaws--so I couldn't put it too high on my list. The second time I saw it, I hardly enjoyed it at all, despite some of the more interesting parts--so I couldn't put it too low, either. So here it is. Having seen it twice, the aftertaste I feel is mostly just underwhelmed.

20. Spider-Man: Homecoming
A decent superhero movie, and one of the better MCU solo films that has come out in the last few years, in my opinion. Tom Holland is by far the best Spider-man to grace the silver screen.

19. Logan Lucky
Channing Tatum. Daniel Craig. Adam Driver. A heist redneck film that was not only hilarious but had a lot of laughs as well. This film was pretty great.

18. War for the Planet of the Apes
The Planet of the Apes remake in, what, the early 2000's?, was not great. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was mediocre. But Dawn and War have both not only been decent niche sci-fi films, they've been genuinely good films in general. Great writing, great story. Fantastic acting, including some of Andy Serkis' best work. But you don't just get that, you get it with anthropomorphized apes on horses welding machine guns riding through fire. This was an awesome movie.

17. The Big Sick
Just a really solid, well-acted, well-written relationship comedy. A lot of fun.

16. John Wick: Chapter 2
Delightful, over-the-top fight scenes, with compelling character work to boot. I think I liked it even better than the first chapter.

15. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
This was perhaps the biggest surprise of the year for me. I went into this expecting a pretty mediocre comedy, the best parts of which I assumed I'd already seen in the trailers. I'm happy to report I was wrong. Not only was the film even more hilarious than the trailers intimated, it had its fair share of heart as well. I'm not ashamed to admit I got emotional at some of the ending parts. Also Dwayne Johnson.

14. Only the Brave
I'm still not quite sure where to put this film. So here it is, I guess. Don't get me wrong, it has many good qualities. It certainly tells a compelling story. But man, that ending...unless you're familiar with the real-life events on which the movie is based, it's a real gut-punch. I am glad these stories get to be told.

13. Dunkirk
Christopher Nolan's World War II epic doesn't quite make it into my top three Nolan films, maybe not even into my top five if I'm honest, but even if it's number six, that's still pretty great company, and still a very, very good movie. As good a WWII epic as anything that's been released recently, I suppose.

12. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2
Not as good as the first one, but still one of the better superhero films out there. And Yondu steals the film, ya'll.

11. Blade Runner 2049
I'll be honest, I didn't love this film as much as a lot of my friends, and a lot of critics, did. That said, it was still a phenomenal movie, and it's evidence that some people in Hollywood are still interested in telling compelling tales. Unfortunately, it's also evidence that audiences aren't necessarily drawn to compelling tales.

10. The Greatest Showman
Here we are, going into the top ten! The Greatest Showman, objectively speaking, should not be this high on my list. Nevertheless, here it is. It didn't matter to me that it was not only wildly historically inaccurate, it was historically absurd. It didn't matter to me that the character development fell flat at times, and that there were some significant plot issues. I'll be honest: the music was too good. The dancing was too fun. The acting was pretty solid. I'd see it again in a heartbeat, and the soundtrack has been playing almost nonstop at our house. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I loved it.

9. Wind River
From what I know of hunting, it's basically a bunch of long, slow waiting periods interspersed with very brief bursts of intense action. I think that describes Wind River to a T. Don't misinterpret me; the long, slow waiting periods in this film were still great stuff; good character development and dialog, good structuring. And the intense sequences...well, they're crazy. It was a great film.

8. The Disaster Artist
Hilarious. Brilliant. Weird. Awesome. Franco bros. Oh hai Mark. Etc.

7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Compelling story. Fantastic acting. Delightful writing.

6. Lady Bird
Lady Bird sports everything I listed for Three Billboards, plus one thing more: early 2000s high school nostalgia. The country-themed high school dance where they're dancing to Bone Thugs N Harmony was EVERYTHING, ya'll. Everything.

5. IT
After the disaster that was Dark Tower, I was worried for Stephen King flicks in 2017. But IT pulled through. I've never been a huge fan of the original miniseries (other than the Tim Curry factor), so my expectations weren't high going into the remake. But I loved it. IT takes a page (successfully) from Stranger Things by hitting the heart and nostalgia notes hard, but it also manages to be a pretty frightening film in its own right. I cannot wait for part 2.

4. Wonder Woman
What can I say? This film blew me away. Gal Godot is amazing and an incredible Wonder Woman. Honestly, Wonder Woman might actually be a better film than the next two on the list--and really, they're all neck and neck--but I personally enjoyed the following films just slightly more.

3. Thor: Ragnarok
I was actually surprised that three of my top five were superhero films, but when I look at which three films made it, I can't think of them being anywhere else on the list. Ragnarok is easily the most fun I've had watching a superhero film, and that includes both GotG movies, Kick-Ass, Spiderman 2, and everything else I can think of. It was hilarious, it was exciting, it had great action sequences, and it used Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" impeccably well. Also, all hail Taika Waititi!

2. Logan
To be honest, slots 2-4 are almost interchangeable. What puts Logan just a smidge ahead for me is the fact that it offers what no other superhero film has yet dared to offer: an ending. And it's an emotional, satisfying, believable ending at that.

1. Get Out
If you haven't seen Get Out, go see it. It was, definitively, my favorite film of 2017. Thrilling, relevant, hilarious, terrifying. Impeccably (and, often, creepily) acted, deftly written and directed, brilliantly put together. Ya'll. Go see Get Out.

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