Last year I opened my Best and Worst article by saying something like “Boy wasn’t 2016 awful, at least we got some good movies though, right?” Oh, poor, innocent, stupid Gregg. You didn’t know how good you had it in 2016, did you? You didn’t know that if 2016 was a bag of garbage 2017 would be the city dump on fire by comparison.
There were movies last year, if you’re able to remember any through the fog of racism and sexual predators. Some of them were even good enough to lift that fog, allowing us a brief respite to remember that the sun does indeed still exist.
Alright, let’s get to it. Here’s my five best and five worst of 2017:
WORST: The Fate of the Furious
The Fast and the Furious franchise kind of succeeds in spite of itself. Each edition walks a fine line between wildly entertaining action spectacle and horribly scripted mess. The past few entries have managed to teeter on the right side on that line, Fate did not. Miss the mark on the action spectacle side and your Fast and Furious movie becomes nothing more than a bunch of unfunny boring meatheads saying “family” over and over and over and over and over and over and over…
BEST: The Big Sick
The Big Sick was funny, sad, heart warming, heart breaking and probably several other juxtaposing emotions. What really touched me, though, was its raw portrayal of relationships.
Relationships are often messy and complicated things whether we’re talking about your relationship with your friends, your parents or your spouse. Big Sick tapped into that and the result was wonderfully genuine and honest film.
WORST: Alien: Covenant
There’s an anomaly in franchise filmmaking that big studios will never resolve: the bigger you expand your universe the less interesting it gets. In the quest for box office dollars studios end up giving us answers to questions we never asked. Questions like: where did the Aliens come from?
In Alien: Convenant we get another space ship full of dumb-dumbs who are allergic to logic stumbling upon another not-quite-Alien Alien. We get even more insight into how the Aliens came to exist and everyone in the audience is sad because we remember when they were just a cool creepy monster from a weird planet.
BEST: I, Tonya
Before I, Tonya, whenever I was reminded of Tonya Harding I would instantly think of Weird Al’s Headline News. Now, I’ll think of a green parrot pecking at Allison Janney’s ear.
I, Tonya’s use of multiple narrators, all of whom are unreliable, was a really clever way to tackle a story with so many key characters and motivations. The result was a really funny and heartbreaking film that really humanized Tonya Harding, so much so that I was really happy to discover she has a family now and still loves to skate.
WORST: Kong: Skull Island
This year’s edition of Good-Actor-in-Bad-Thing again features Tom Hiddleston, and he’s got company in Alison Brie and Samuel L. Jackson who also love pay checks. And what a breeze it must have been getting those checks, there’s so much digital paint on Kong’s canvas I’m not sure these talented folks ever had to step onto an actual set.
I don’t like shitting on effects a whole lot, design teams work hard on these films and making fantastic things look real is a tough, tough job, but when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work. Nothing in Kong ever looked believable, and I swear Kong kept shifting in scale.
I’m not sure it’s fair for me to include anything from Christopher Nolan in my “best”, the truth is if Nolan released 210 minute epic about a hamster running on his hamster wheel, I’d call it brilliant. The hamster wheel would probably shift through dimensions, or something.
However, if Dunkirk was directed by anyone else it would probably just be a forgettable, derivative World War II movie. Nolan instead used the Battle of Dunkirk as a backdrop to play with time in an intriguingly intense way.
As blockbuster filmmakers go, Nolan is easily the most interesting and I feel lucky that there is still a mega budget director out there Hollywood will give a blank check to.
WORST: The Mummy
We’ve covered Tom Cruise’s The Mummy extensively in a podcast, so I don’t have too much to add here. Truth be told I didn’t really want to put The Mummy on this list, but 2017 was such a good year for movies I didn’t have a lot of bad ones to fill out this list. The Mummy kind of made it by default. Sorry Tom.
BEST: Get Out
Probably what you’ve heard most about Get Out is what a strong metaphor for the black experience it is, but as a white dude what I appreciated was the unrelenting and punishing message it had for us white folks. (Careful, spoilers ahead) Every single white person turns out to be an unredeemable asshole. Every. Single. One. Towards the end of the second act I was begging and pleading with the movie to just let Allison Williams be good. Please, just let one white person not be a chunk of butthole!
They all sucked, there was no character to make me feel better about myself. For me, it really slammed home hard how we’re all complicit in racism and discrimination, every last ghostly pale one of us.
(Okay, spoilers over.)
Get Out is also a master class in executing the Chekov’s Gun principle. Everything you see matters, and every little setup pays off in a wonderfully satisfying way. Jordan Peele just crushed from start to finish.
WORST: Power Rangers
Power Rangers was the worst movie I saw in 2017 and it wasn’t close. Sure, Power Rangers has never been a property that carried the mark of quality, but it’s difficult to imagine how this remake could’ve been remade worse.
Five unlikely friends come together to form The Breakfast Club Avengers, seems simple enough starting point, right? But the way the teens with attitude come together involves some of the most needlessly complicated and convenience driven screenwriting I’ve ever seen. You really have to see it to understand how baffling it is. To summarize there’s a hidden treasure, a restricted area and a whole lot of people who happen to be standing around near by.
From there Power Rangers just crashes and burns in the most irritatingly boring way. A full hour of training in a cave? Sounds great! If you’re wondering what that sound is, I’m trying to see if I can suffocate myself with a popcorn tub.
Let me explain to you how much I loved Molly’s Game. I had to pee halfway through this movie. I had to urgently pee. I had to pee so bad it fucking hurt. It hurt so bad that when the movie was over and I could finally piss, my poor, bloated bladder was in pain for 15 minutes after I relieved myself. I probably did permanent damage, that’s how much I loved every Aaron Sorkin-y moment of Molly’s Game.
Jessica Chastain delivers a brilliant, commanding performance, Idris Elba gets the Sorkin speech and some scenes are so gripping and expertly written they feel like their own film. Would buy. 10 stars.
That about wraps it up, kids. In case you’re wondering why a certain movie didn’t make my cut, it’s possible I didn’t see it. For posterity, here’s a list of all the 2017 movies I’ve seen so far:
- Alien: Covenant
- Atomic Blonde
- Baby Driver
- Blade Runner 2049
- The Big Sick
- The Fate of the Furious
- The Founder
- Free Fire
- Get Out
- Gerald’s Game
- Ghost in the Shell
- The Girl with All the Gifts
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- I am Not Your Negro
- I, Tonya
- An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
- The Incredible Jessica James
- Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
- John Wick: Chapter Two
- Kong: Skull Island
- Lady Bird
- The Lost City of Z
- Molly’s Game
- The Mummy
- Nobody Speaks: Trials of the Free Press
- Power Rangers
- Saving Capitalism
- Spider-man: Homecoming
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- Thor: Ragnarok
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
- War for the Planet of the Apes
- Wonder Woman