In early 2017, I formally retired from reviewing, although I technically just ceased doing critiquing full time. I still pen ‘Compulsive Franchise Disorder’, upload old writings, discuss new released on my facebook page and every once I am inspired to do a normal review, but there are some consequences to my decisions…I update just frequently enough that I become obligated to do a ‘best of’/’worst of’ lift, but because I’ve taken a step back from being a critic, I don’t watch as many movies as I used too…I bring this up because this years list REALLY makes me look like a plebeian, even though I would argue that those who have not experienced the “Carnosaur” trilogy are the true uncultured masses. I always stress the subjectivity of film, but you will NOT agree with the majority of my preferences. Usually, I try to balance the films objective quality with my own personal tastes, but this time…My top 10 list is rooted ENTIRELY on my reactions to these films and not necessarily the actual quality of them. Because I am retired, don’t expect analysis, critiques or even defenses of my opinions, just a brief summation as to why I adored them. “Split” was this years runner-up, although I didn’t feel much of a struggle in making my decision to exclude it from my list. Very good movie though!
THE MOVIES THAT REMIND ME OF THE GREATNESS THAT IS “CARNOSAUR“!
10) Murder on the Orient Express
I adore these old fashioned murder mysteries and Agatha Christie was the queen of the genre, so I have a certain amount of love for almost all of her adaptations. The 1974 version of “Murder on the Orient Express” is actually my favorite and while this new interpretation isn’t anywhere near as memorable, it’s one of the few cases where I approved of the changes to Christie’s book. Whereas the source played out as a fun, quirky, brain teaser, this added a lot more stakes and drama to the story. The cast was utilized well and I thought Kenneth Branagh was excellent as Hercule Poirot, while he also kept things visually interesting as the director. I can’t call it great, as it does stumble during the middle block, oddly while adding misplaced action scenes. I also understand the complaints about the change in tone, but I didn’t mind that and even if my love for this movie is coasting off my love for the source material and previous adaptations, that doesn’t change the fact that I love it.
9) Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Even though I knew “The Last Jedi” would be divisive, I was expecting the backlash to come from casual viewers instead of the hardcore fans, considering how much we’re constantly begging for something new. I love “The Last Jedi” because I am a “Star Wars” fan and this gave me everything I need out of any Star Wars flick…Amazing visuals that favor practical effects, while using CGI only when its necessary…the incredible John Williams score…The imaginative designs for the creatures, props and sets that are an integral part to the Star Wars identity…Yet unlike its predecessor, the filmmakers took risks with the property and left me unsure what would happen next. They understood the cliches, but used them against us and I ended up feeling the suspense and excitement because I felt anything could happen. Anyone can die. It’s just a shame that the fandom sucks. I’m not saying they had to like the movie, but so many of the criticisms are indirectly rooted in the fact that they wanted more of ‘the same’. There are valid complaints, as there are bouts with bad dialogue, plot induced stupidity and marketing friendly filler, but these are also complaints that could’ve been used against the original trilogy. We simply did not care back then because we were too young to understand this. But “The Last Jedi” got a strong emotional reaction out of me, with Mark Hamill’s surprisingly powerful performance being a large part of its success.
8) Get Out
“Get Out” was the surprise hit of the year and looking back at it, I think it’s more surprising that the film worked at all. It has a fairly conventional set up, but the tone is eccentric to the point of almost becoming bi-polar and the racial content could’ve easily made the film tasteless or offensive…yet it still ended up being kind of amazing. I really felt the suspense, because the cast is so great with their body language and facial expressions, which kept me in a constant state of unease. Director Jordan Peele has some interesting imagery, but the most memorable shots of the movie are the close-ups, which showcase raw, distressed emotion. Yet it’s also disarmingly funny and its the first movie I can think of that deals with ‘positive discrimination’, something most of the world probably takes for a granted. “Get Out” only has one enemy- its hype. I can imagine a lot of people being disappointed because it’s not quite the great film us critics often paint it as. I personally am still salty over the lack of a skeletal dear, which was what the previews sold me on.
Not everyone will like “Dunkirk“, as its unconventional structure and lack of characterizations will possibly disorient them, or they will view it as style over substance. I never had this problem because “Dunkirk” is less about individual people and more about the event and how people involved dealt with it. Every visual had power, an emotional resonance that made up for the fact that I knew very little about these people. It was the right balance of spectacle and drama, with the editing, direction and sound design uniting to make us feel like we’re a part of these battles. I was expecting a much slower paced and lengthy affair, but “Dunkirk” is surprisingly short and keeps things moving at the right speed. It doesn’t drag its feet, but it’s also not in a hurry to get itself over with. Every scene exists for a purpose and it’s as long as it needs to be to get the right amount of emotion out of you.
6) Thor: Ragnarok
“Thor” just got really f@cking weird with this one, which is a Shakespearean tragedy with the tone of a buddy comedy, stylized like 1980’s pulp science fiction. Minimally, this would’ve been a fascinating train wreck, but instead “Thor: Ragnarok” shows that Marvel is finally trying to broaden the horizons of the formula. I was taken aback by some of the plot twists, which is cool. More importantly though, just as with the majority of the other MCU flicks, I laughed a lot, was thrilled with the action scenes, marveled at the pretty visuals and even sniffled when the story called for it. I also found myself adoring the score, which is so eccentric and strange that it probably would’ve been a better fit for “Doctor Strange“. “Thor: Ragnarok” also probably boasts the best art design and cinematography of the entire MCU franchise.
5) Spider-man: Homecoming
The Marvel Cinematic Universe strikes again! “Spider-man: Homecoming” made me laugh, tear up and…marvel…at the spectacle, just as “Thor: Ragnarok” did. I love the style, tone and general formula of the MCU, so it’s no surprise when these movies appear on my ‘Best of’ lists. Obviously if you don’t care for it as much, this will likely do little for you. I ultimately preferred this over “Thor Ragnarok” because I liked how this was smaller in scale. The world is not at stake and the villain isn’t particularly malicious. Yet the filmmakers found ways of making everything matter and it was interesting how the suspense came from Peter Parker’s inexperience. There are a few times when he’s visibly terrified for doing something that would seem mundane to the likes of Thor or Iron Man. This was the first time Marvel has really tried something like that.
If “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Spider-man: Homecoming” thought they could boast about genre experimentation, then “Logan” exists to humble them. Who would’ve thought that the “X-Men” series, which had become stale with its formula, would be the one to take serious risks that could’ve killed the entire franchise, but instead saved it. A Wolverine flick that’s not only rated R, but embraces its R-rating? It’s actually kind of horrifying seeing what has become of our beloved heroes and the implications as to what happened to the rest of the team are even worse! I just loved every creative decision this movie made. I loved how grisly the action scenes were, I loved the almost apocalyptic atmosphere and spaghetti western stylistic touches. I loved how the focus was on the actors, who all turn in amazing, raw performances that gave me chills. “Logan” was in my opinion, the best comic book adaptation of 2017.
I am a huge fan of Stephen King’s “It” and was skeptical as to whether this adaptation could capture the bizarre, demented atmosphere of the novel…but it did! The cast of kids have great chemistry together and their comedic timing was flawless, while they also sold me on the dramatic content. Yet you really do feel like each of them are in peril, because “It” does not shy away from violence against children. The visual style was unique for a horror flick, as it’s shot more like a fantasy. There are a lot of wide shots and vibrant colors, with even the scarier moments feeling somewhat fantastical. Bill Skarsgård is TERRIFYING as Pennywise, but the film doesn’t use him so much that you become accustomed to his presence. “It” is awesome for me because it’s not JUST a horror film. It’s an adventure, a coming-of-age story, a nightmarish fantasy AND a scare flick and while horror is my favorite genre, you don’t see this combination very often…much less one that belongs to an exceptional movie.
2) Kong: Skull Island
If I had done this list back when I was consistently reviewing, “Kong: Skull Island” would’ve most certainly been placed lower…or maybe even given an honorable mention. It is NOT as good as ANYTHING proceeding it, including “Split“, so how did it score the #2 spot on this list? Because I told you that this was based purely on my preferences. I’ve watched “Kong: Skull Island” more than any other 2017 release, because I am a huge giant monster fan and “Skull Island” gave me everything I want out of one and more. Awesome monster battles, incredible special effects, a wildly colorful visual style and a titular monster with a distinct personality. Everyone complained about the thin characterizations, but I never could agree with this because the actors give their characters personalities and they have an easy time carrying the movie. Furthermore, the stinger still makes me pee myself with joy…which I probably should not admit, but I’ve already admitted to liking “Kong: Skull Island” far more than I should, so it’s highly unlikely you respect me at this point anyway. I cannot wait to watch this movie again and am baffled as to why I don’t own it…and that is why I’m giving it #2.
1) Blade Runner 2049
“Blade Runner 2049” probably got the #1 spot because I had to make up for the fact that “Kong: Skull Island” probably did not deserve 2nd place, but “Blade Runner 2049” earned this. Visually, it’s f@cking “Blade Runner” and is just as jaw dropping to behold as you would expect from it. I do love how the set design doesn’t just recycle its predecessor though and you really do feel like it’s the exact same world…that has seriously deteriorated in the past few decades…From a technical standpoint, the effects, direction, editing, cinematography, score…perfect…The acting is really good too, with Harrison Ford turning in one of his best performances yet. But the reason why this deserves to not just be the #1 spot on a wannabe critics list, but to be remembered as classic by everyone…even moreso than its predecessor…is it offered new and fresh ideas that it explored to their fullest. Now I said “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” did a lot of new stuff, but the difference is “The Last Jedi” was doing the opposite of what its predecessors did- which happened to be new for the franchise. “Blade Runner 2049” builds its new content from the ground up, as even though these unique concepts feel in line with the first “Blade Runner“, they did not come from it. “Blade Runner 2049” is the smartest, most thought provoking film that I saw in 2017, but it also has a strong emotional core that moved me to tears. This is risk taking at its finest and we should be ashamed that we let this flop.
Honorable Mention– “The Girl with All the Gifts” was a criminally overlooked genre feature that gives fresh spins on both the zombie and post-apocalyptic genres. It was so great that it might’ve even been a contender for the #1 spot, but it’s technically a 2016 release that simply got worldwide distribution in 2017, so doesn’t count.
So yeah…I liked some pretty cool movies! But I like my reviewtirement even more! Still, if you like my writings, please check out my ‘Compulsive Franchise Disorder‘ critiques!