2017 was a great year for movies, and the first year I've had MoviePass! That means I've gotten to see a lot more first run movies this year than ever before, and I hope that continues into next year as well. There are still a few potential greats left on my to-watch list, but here is my quick guide to the best and worst in cinema this year!
Best of the year
If I could choose the nominees for Best Picture, these would be them! Limited to five, and not in ranked order:
Atomic Blonde has the cool of John Wick, but is more of a mood piece and character study that just happens to contain the most brain-destroying action sequence in years smack dab in the middle of it. Charlize Theron and James McAvoy are amazing, as is the chilly neon lighting and pulsing soundtrack. Loads of style, yet with so much heart and brain beneath the surface. This one deserves a cult following.
I can't think of a film I'd rather see win best picture at the Oscars. Did any movie reach more people in such a powerful emotional way? In the great tradition of horror/thriller films as social commentary, "Get Out" deserves a place with the greats. Seeing this in a theater full of people was almost like group therapy. Can't we all just agree on this one?
I didn't think Sofia Coppola had a thriller like this in her. "The Beguiled" simmers for a good hour in some ethically questionable lifestyle porn, but foregrounds the fragile lie at the heart of it all. You know that the apocalypse is just outside the gate, and at any moment all hell could break loose. Colin Farell is perfectly cast as sociopathic eye candy, but Nicole Kidman's performance is the real stunner. A victim of awful timing, "The Beguiled" deserves a reassessment once we get a little distance from 2017.
The Shape of Water
Big, messy, artistic passion projects like The Shape of Water are things to treasure, even if they're a bit lumpy here and there. By showing us the inner lives of all sorts of romantically frustrated, lonely people, Guillermo Del Toro is able to ease us into accepting a romance between a woman and a fish man as entirely plausible, and even beautiful. This is an unfiltered vision from a master fantasy-maker, and is not to be missed.
Suburbicon is an angry fucking movie, a howl of rage from a White American with a conscience, and the most misunderstood film of the year. Its tawdry domestic thriller juts uncomfortably against real-life mob violence and racism, but that tension is entirely the point. So much to unpack, so many unforgettable moments, and a terrifying performance by Matt Damon. Easily the most misread and underrated film of 2017.
Though these next three may not be top-tier, they're some of the best times I've had at the movies all year. Give them some love!
If you're going to throw a gajillion dollars of colorful sci-fi spectacle onto the screen, I can't think of anybody I'd rather have do it than Luc Besson. There isn't much below the surface, but that's one hell of a surface. Not sure why so many people avoided this one, might have been the awful reviews. Or maybe it's just too darn French? I had a blast.
"Geostorm" takes it's hare-brained idiot premise so seriously, and cares so much about the bond between brothers at its center that I couldn't help but love it. After this and "Gods of Egypt", Gerard Butler is becoming my favorite working B-movie actor. And seriously, if he won't stop those deadly space lasers, who will?
Not only is this the sequel fans of the original "xXx" have been waiting over 15 years for, it manages to top it several times over. Any fan heartbroken by the dismal "xXx: State of the Union" will leave this one with a big stupid grin on their face. Plus they stole Suicide Squad's "quirky intro card" gag and did it better.
Hall of Shame
Were these literally the worst films made this year? No way. But they are the ones most deserving of scorn.
On its own merits, "Ghost in the Shell" is merely forgettable. But the 1996 "Ghost in the Shell" already exists. So what's the point? To plunder the visuals and marry them to a simpler plot? The Matrix already did it better 18 years ago. Bonus points for a plot twist that somehow manages to make the controversy over the film's whitewashed casting even worse.
This gilded monstrosity is the uncanny valley of Disney, with a script that can't decide if it wants to be a brain-dead recreation or to introduce half-baked story innovations that it forgets in an ADHD fit a few scenes later. Think of all the time, money, and effort that went in to this that could have been applied to literally anything else. But give Luke Evans a special achievement award. Any flicker of life here is entirely his doing.
"Blade Runner 2049" starts out interesting, then gets progressively worse over one hundred and sixty ass-punishing minutes. Ignoring every interesting idea in its premise in favor of cranking slowly through a mundane plot, this film made me angrier than any other in 2017 for squandering so much potential.