Hey! It’s January 2018, so that means it’s time for awards and countdowns!
Geoff here, and there’s a few things you should know before I dive into my list:
- If you’re looking for artsy flicks full of deep, philosophical, and possibly lousy with social commentary, eh… You better tune in when my esteemed co-host, Jason Oliver, gets his list put together.
- I’m going first because, I gots no time to see more movies from 2017, maaaaan.
- The types of movies I see in theaters and as soon as I possibly can are your superhero, sci-fi, and the like. Again, if you aren’t looking for superheros, monkeys, Tommy Wiseau, and fish monsters, best check back when Jason gets his list done.
- Just because I wanna add some flavor, I included some honorable mentions and my pick for the worst movie I saw from 2017!
I awarded this spot to not one, but TWO Marvel movies that followed some visual and thematic ideas. First, let’s talk about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The first Guardians knocked the socks off just about anybody who saw it. It had an awesome soundtrack, really funny moments, and exceptionally likable characters – like a talking racoon and walking tree. The sequel had a tough act to follow, but, to be perfectly honest, it surpasses the original. The music cues are more emotional and impactful to the story as a whole. Characters learn more about how much they mean to each other, as well as things about themselves that made them much better fleshed out characters. Just about every character has familial ties to another. Yondu to Quill, Rocket to Groot, Gamora to Nebula, Ego to Quill, and so on and so on. The characters become intertwined to the point that the movie starts to carry emotional weight that pays off.
Fun fact: Before May of 2017, only two movies still left me choked up – 1995’s Babe and 1982’s E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. After seeing that tear trickle down Rocket Racoon’s face at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 while Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” plays, that number is now three.
As for Thor: Ragnarok, it matched a lot of the lighthearted tone and outer space weirdness built by the Guardians movies. It wasn’t just that though. I loved the Valkyrie character as well as Hela’s true brutal villainy. There was a fitting end to Odin’s story and his hope for Thor and Loki to fight together as opposed to against one another. Plus, it gave us fans everything we wanted after the first Avengers movie: a chance to see Thor and Hulk fight each other again. Ultimately, there’s a lot to be said for having fun while watching a movie. Thor: Ragnarok might be the most fun I had at any movie I saw this year, and I have to give it major points for that. I’d also be remiss to not award the bonus points for all the extra stuff thrown in from the old Thor comics of my youth – Surtur, Skurge, Fenris, Ragnarok as a general concept of the end of Asgard as a place, and a reference to Beta Ray Bill himself.
Fucking Beta Ray Bill!
And Jeff Goldblum as a smarmy Grandmaster.
Coming in at #4 is a comic book movie that can pretty much compete directly with the much loved The Dark Knight that won a major Academy Award for Heath Ledger in 2009.
Logan is the first superhero adaptation since the aforementioned The Dark Knight that has been nominated for one of the top Oscar categories: Best Adapted Screenplay. There’s good reason for that. In Logan, Wolverine and Professor Xavier are among the last mutants still alive in the world. Wolverine’s healing factor is fading fast and Xavier is going senile – which is a massive problem considering he is the most powerful mutant ever. Wolverine soon finds out a clone has been created of him in the form of a little girl who is as savage as he used to be. He reluctantly protects her, and eventually decides to take her to a place where other new mutants are hiding and looking to escape a group of mercenaries trying to hunt them down and kill them.
That description is a poor representation for a movie that has incredible performances from Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Dafne Keen (who plays the little girl, Laura) and deals with growing old, being a protector, and even being a parent as well as a child who has to care for an aging and decrepit parent. It’s directed marvelously (no pun intended), and even features a version on the Blu-Ray release that allows for you to watch the movie in black and white. I guess, considering it was nominated for an Oscar, obviously it is well written.
Before we get to the third best movie of the year, let’s take a quick look at what I thought was the bottom of the barrel…
Let’s not pretend that any of the previous xXx movies were any goddamn good. That said, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is utter stupidity. It is nearly forgettable. No, I’m not kidding – I mentioned to Jason that I was naming it the worst of 2017, and he forgot we saw it in the movie theater where I mostly riffed it from start to finish. It’s nothing less than a Vin Diesel vanity project. He’s constantly being told how awesome he is and how great he is and how the world cannot survive without him. He’s also hit on by every girl, including a co-worker, and is party of an orgy where about a half dozen stick-thin, way too young girls screw his brains out. It’s got missing tissue from what I can imagine is either badly re-written and re-shot, or edited due to the numbskulls who want to watch this shit not being able to watch a movie that doesn’t have quick cuts and music video style pacing.
Worst? It only uses the motorcycle surfing on the ocean shown in the trailers for a mere ten seconds. Fuck this movie.
If you have any question why I rank The Disaster Artist at #3 this year, then I think you need to listen to our first episode of the Film Seizure Podcast. For your convenience, I included the link right here.
To summarize, The Disaster Artist is a dramatization of the making of one of the most beloved bad movies of all time, 2003’s The Room. James Franco played the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau who wrote, directed, and starred in The Room. It’s a bizarre story about a bizarre man. The true power of the movie is found in James Franco’s performance. He directed the film in character as Wiseau and he is so very careful to not make fun of Wiseau but play him as just a weird person. The movie shows things that you can’t possibly imagine as being true, but, by all accounts, it is. It’s a straightforward comedy with heart, character, and drama in all the right places to make this as fulfilling an experience as possible for any fan of bad movies and the insanity that can happen behind the scenes.
Before we get to the top two that are so close to one another that they are almost tied, let’s take a moment to show off a few honorable mentions…
The Honorable Mentions for me in 2017 includes a couple more superheroes and one big ol’ monkey. Wonder Woman proved there is still hope for the DC movie universe. Gal Gadot proved she could carry a movie on her own. Sure, it still carries forward the dour world and look as the other DC movies, but this time it make sense. Diana is saving the world from the war god Ares before he can kill even more in World War I. It’s heroic and, yes, you can’t ignore the cultural significance to Wonder Woman taking a massive bow in her first ever solo film feature – and first for any western superheroine.
Spider-Man: Homecoming has a few things going for it, even though I had a couple minor letdowns at the end. First, it probably is the best representation of Peter Parker and Spider-Man that we’ve ever seen on the big screen. Second, it’s fun and full of youthful excitement. It’s worthy of a Marvel movie. No matter how fun it was and how much I liked Tom Holland as Peter Parker, it’s just great to see Spidey interacting in a world that the Avengers occupy no matter the end result.
Kong: Skull Island is a continuation of Legendary’s “MonsterVerse” and certainly took full advantage of what they had and where they wanted to place this in their universe’s timeline. So, we have a movie about soldiers who were literally a day or two away from leaving Vietnam encountering Skull Island, the home of some giant monsters, but also the top dog, big balls man himself, King mutherfuckin’ Kong. Naturally, he doesn’t care at all for these army dudes blowin’ up stuff on his island, so he smashes the shit out of all them in one of the best giant monster rampage scenes ever. Long story short, Samuel L. Jackson decides he wants to kill the monkey, but… Well. Guess who wins that. The point is, it takes everything you love about Vietnam movies (soundtrack, gritty chopper rides, shots of choppers flying in front of the horizon) and everything you love about monster movies (rampages, monster-on-monster fights, fuck, monsters in general) and smashes them together into the most awesome thunderclap you could possibly make with two ideas.
Plus…? It begins building toward the next Godzilla movie as well as set up the inevitable confrontation between King Kong and Godzilla, the King of Monsters! Fucking sign me up!
And now to the top two movies of 2017, and honestly, dear readers, it was really tough to determine what should take the #1 spot. Both of these movies deserve #1 so much so that they could be listed as #1 and #1a.
But this is a countdown list so coming in at #2 is Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. This is a fairly simple “Beauty and Beast” type of story with a fish monster, not unlike the gillman from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, has become enamored with a lonely mute girl named Elisa. The creature has been taken from his home and subject to some pretty nasty experiments by Commie-hatin’ American G-Men. Elisa works as a cleaning lady at the lab and when her and the monster fall in love, she helps free the creature by any means necessary.
While the movie is very simple in design, it twists the idea of who audiences should identify and sympathize with while still keeping the look of a 1950s monster movie. It’s beautifully shot, and exceptionally well acted – particularly by Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins. Look, don’t take my word for it. If Academy Award Nominations mean anything, The Shape of Water leads the way with 13 (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay), with the next most earning only 8 (by Dunkirk). That’s pretty impressive for a movie about a fish monster man.
#1 goes to War for the Planet of the Apes. When I saw the movie last summer, I left knowing this was going to take the #1 spot. The Planet of the Apes franchise is one of my favorites. The original film, based on a novel by French writer Pierre Boulle, is a classic of the sci-fi genre. While some of the sequels were certainly hit and miss (not to mention an extremely poor remake by Tim Burton in 2001), a new trilogy began in 2011. War was the final installment for a trilogy that focused directly on the most important ape of all time, Caesar.
For three movies, we watched Caesar come into his intellect, after being dosed with a viral drug to help cure Alzheimer’s disease, lead a group of other enhanced apes, and build a society. We also saw that his viral drug dosage ultimately lead to a disease that wiped out most of the human race. This of course leads to the remaining humans losing their goddamn minds that they’ve lost dominion over the Earth. In this final installment, the last refuges of the human race are starting to break down as they go to war with each other after a rogue military man took his revenge to a whole new level and killed Caesar’s wife and first son.
This is a movie about loss, freedom, mercy, revenge, hatred, fear, and anger. Through it all, we ride with Caesar and feel his pain and his final joy finally leading his apes to a new home to build a society that will live well beyond him and the other first generation intelligent apes. It’s a perfect ending to help set up where the original series began.
My only real disappointment was that this movie didn’t get its due respect from the Academy. It’s universally believed to be the best of this trilogy and Andy Serkis should receive some sort of due recognition for his portrayal of Caesar. Despite not seeing him as a human actor at all, you can see him emoting and hear his performance through his dialog. The fact that it is nominated only for Best Visual Effects, though richly deserved, is a damn shame.
For me, though, War for the Planet of the Apes is the best film I saw in 2017.