For further background on the year in film, please refer to the Some Other Movies From 2017 entry.
The following things happened in 2017:
- Millions of people worldwide joined the Women's March in response to Donald Trump's election to the office of President.
- North Korea fired a ballistic missile across the Sea of Japan.
- The United Kingdom began negotiations to leave the European Union.
- The U.S. announced its intention to leave the Paris Climate Agreement.
- Russia was banned from the Winter Olympics following a doping scandal.
- The Walt Disney Company announced that it would be buying most of 21st Century Fox.
1. Blade Runner 2049
I'm gonna go on record and say this is better than the first one. Respect to Ridley Scott for a groundbreaking movie, but yeah, Denis Villeneuve took it to another level.
Ryan Gosling is all over this movie, Harrison Ford reminds you why he's such a big star, and Jared Leto makes you forget Suicide Squad entirely. Blade Runner 2049 is a wonderful tour of augmented reality which asks the questions what is real? Who is real? What embodies real?
Oh, and I neglected to mention Ana de Armas. She's achingly beautiful in this film, and even more than that she adds a lot of humanity to it.
2. The Florida Project
Willem Dafoe stars as the manager of a motel/short term stay complex in Orlando. It tells a heartrending story of life on the bottom, and does so without becoming formulaic.
3. Baby Driver
In many ways this movie "out Tarantinoes" Tarantino. It's got the same swagger, it's got the same taste in music, but there's a greater depth of characterization alongside its stylistic choices. It all works together. It feels organic.
I really liked star Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars, and I was happy to see him again in this movie. The rest of the cast - yes, even Kevin Spacey - were well chosen, and the story hums along without ever growing boring. I didn't really get Edgar Wright until this movie. I now think he has a promising career ahead of him.
A Suggestion: If you liked this movie the next obvious choice would be Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, but a less obvious choice would be 1976's The Driver. All three movies share the same love of cars and heists.
4. Wind River
Jeremy Renner is excellent in this crime story set on the Wyoming Indian reservation. Yes, it's a little distracting seeing Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch in the same movie, but both Renner and Olson are convincing as two people thrown together in the pursuit of a murderer. There's also a lot of interesting cross-cultural subtext in this movie, and not all of it focused on Native Americans as cultural artifacts.
Fun Fact: Director Tyler Sheridan considers this the third movie in a trilogy following Sicario (which he wrote) and the equally excellent Hell or High Water.
Cause for Argument: Harvey Weinstein's company was originally attached as distributor, though home media distribution rights were transferred to Lionsgate after sexual abuse allegations were leveled against him. Kelsey Chow, who plays the murdered girl, also claimed to be of Native American descent after the movie's release. Her claims were later debunked by the Eastern Band Cherokee, of which she claimed to be a member.
A Disturbing Two Hours
1. Killing of a Sacred Deer
This movie violates my previously held "Colin Farrell rule," in which a casting director is best served by casting Farrell in a supporting role, not as the lead.
So much for that rule. In Killing of a Sacred Deer Farrell plays a doctor ensnared by a young boy, with the doctor's family held ransom for a mistake very few are aware of. For Nicole Kidman it was a return to the Eyes Wide Shut school of acting, and Barry Keoghan, an Irish actor perhaps better known for Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, is a revelation as a boy with a grudge. Director Yorgos Lanthimos is far from a household name, but the wide angles, stilted dialogue and unemotional delivery which make this movie so unique are all evidence of his sense of style.
In Complete Agreement: Some critics called this the best horror movie of 2017, even though there's very little violence present in the film.
Some Good Ones
1. Pitch Perfect 3
These movies have always walked a line between funny and embarrassing, and while this one is definitely more embarrassing than funny, I have to say I still enjoyed it. It's not nearly as good as the first two, but it's OK.
A bull dedicated to pacifism finds himself forced into a bullfight. Like Pitch Perfect 3 it's simply OK. I doubt I'll remember any of the plot points beyond next week.
Fun Fact: Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning voices one of Ferdinand's rivals.
Korean thriller in which a young man discovers that his family aren't what they appear to be. It's not quite Memories of Murder, and it's definitely not Parasite, but it has a few interesting twists and turns. My biggest complaint is the home invasion near the end. The protagonist's motives for doing what he does are very unclear.
Masterfully filmed, delightfully gruesome film about betrayal and retaliation in the desert. The first half of this movie is excellent, even if the second half is very implausible. What about dehydration? The temperature of the ground they're walking on? The wound in her back? The fact that her hair goes from blonde to brunette in the course of a single night?
Fun Fact: Star Matilda Lutz is actually from Italy, and this was her second non-Italian movie.
5. The Hitman's Bodyguard
Gary Oldman was wasted on this movie. He'd win the Oscar the same year for The Darkest Hour, and yet somehow here he is, in this movie, playing an off-the-shelf Bond villain.
As an action movie it works, even if there's nothing here we haven't seen in other movies, with greater emotional impact. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel Jackson are an engaging duo, the action scenes are well paced, and the plot stumbles onward to its foregone conclusion without getting bogged down in the kind of details that would only make it harder to take seriously. I can't say it's a flawless film, but it's far from the worst and I get why they made a sequel.
Sure it's manipulative, sure it bounces between characters a bit too much, but it'll have you on the verge of tears anyway. In Wonder a boy with birth defects struggles to integrate into school life while his sister tries to win their parents' attention. Julia Roberts makes this movie better than it ought to be, and Owen Wilson reminds you that yes, he is a good actor when the occasion calls for it.
Fun Fact 1: Director Stephen Chbosky also directed The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which was based on his novel.
Fun Fact 2: Keep an eye on Jacob Tremblay, who plays the protagonist in this,movie. I have the feeling he's going to be a bigger and bigger deal in the near future.
The More You Know: The boy in this movie suffers from Treacher Collins Syndrome, which affects facial features. Other complications include problems breathing, problems seeing and hearing loss.
7. Cars 3
Lightning McQueen tries to get his mojo back after losing to a much younger car. Of course the person typing this and the people reading this aren't 5 anymore, but hey, it's not like the Transformers movies are any less far-fetched, are they?
Some Bad Ones
1. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Parts of this movie certainly look cool, but there's a great big absence right in the middle of it. What's missing? Likable and/or sympathetic protagonists. As it is, Dane DeHaan and Carla Delevingne run around in a series of outfits, trade some truly embarrassing dialogue, and pretend to be in love with each other. Luc Besson has directed some amazing films, but this is not one of them.
Fun Fact 1: This is the most expensive European AND the most expensive independent movie ever made. Luc Besson paid for a lot of the movie out of his own pocket.
Fun Fact 2: Ethan Hawke briefly appears in this movie. He'd appear with Dane DeHaan again in 2019's The Kid.
2. Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds
Effects-heavy Korean movie about a fireman on trial in the afterlife. I found the beginning somewhat interesting, but towards the hour mark the heaven-hell (or good-evil) dialectic really put me off. Why would that guy even be on trial in the first place? If he has such a hard time in the afterlife there's not much hope for the rest of us.
This movie made a ton of money in East Asia, and went over especially well in South Korea, where it was produced with a considerable Chinese investment. I think it owes a lot of its success to earlier movies like Train to Busan and The Host, which built up a big demand for Korean movies in this part of the world.
3. Transformers: The Last Knight
In fairness to this movie, the end of it looks really cool. If you're ever wondering about the state of special effects in the modern era, yeah, check out the last 20 minutes of Transformers: The Last Knight. I'm not even sure how they did some of those shots.
That aside, it's a real haul to get to those last 20 minutes. The plot of this movie is just barely there, and between Arthurian legends and Cybertron's robot queen there's miles of senseless dialogue and a multitude of human characters who seem completely out of their depth. Who gives a fuck about this "TRF" entity anyway? And why do they have such a fighting chance against aliens whose technology should be able to crush them at any moment?
Hats off to the cast for cashing that paycheck though. Some of the lines in this movie would be extremely difficult to say without laughing.
Fun Fact 1: Mark Wahlberg's love interest in this movie is played by the same actress who played Peter Quill's mom in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.
Fun Fact 2: Gemma Chan voices Quintessa. She'll be appearing soon in The Eternals.
4. A Ghost Story
I'm sorry, but the minute Casey Affleck started walking around in the sheet I couldn't take this movie seriously. Critics loved it but I just couldn't get past the sheet. If they'd refrained from cutting out eyeholes, maybe, or if he hadn't been wearing the sheet for so long...
1. Fifty Shades Darker
The leads look great naked, but I struggled. The Seattle setting kept me going for a while, but then I realized that it was NEVER going to stop raining, and that they weren't likely to leave the vicinity of Pioneer Square anytime in the near future. The dialogue is uniformly bad, the situations are contrived, and at around the 15 minute mark you start to wish that Anastasia would just respect herself a little more and find another boyfriend.
I Had No Idea: Actress Dakota Johnson is the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith. Antonio Banderas was also her stepfather while he and Melanie Griffith were married.