Well, the halfway point of 2017 is rapidly approaching. And all the dust has settled around who won best picture. So, let’s talk about the five best and the five worst films I’ve seen all year. We’ll start with the bad news.
5. The Wall
The Wall spent an hour and twenty one minutes building up all kinds of goodwill from me. And then, in its final seconds, it chewed it up, spit it out, lit it on fire, and dropped a nuke on it. It’s an incredibly frustrating film as it features some great film making, strong central performances, and takes place in real time without feeling gimmicky. It bears all the hallmarks of being a revered piece of war cinema, but wastes it all on a cynical joke right before the credits roll.
4. The Promise
With a cast boasting Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, and story set during a tragic and underexplored event in history, The Promise sounds like an Oscar darling. Unfortunately, the film all but completely ignores the atrocities committed against the Armenian people and opts to focus on a contrived love story. The actors do what they can with the material, but the final product is overblown, and borderline offensive.
Okay, I know I gave CHiPs a 2/10 when I reviewed the film earlier this year. And I stick by my rating. But, compared to the shenanigans the next two films tried to get away with, CHiPs is a masterwork. The problem with CHiPs is that every single piece of the movie is treated carelessly. Nobody cares if the jokes land, they just care if they get them out. The plot doesn’t make any sense, but that’s because the plot exists to show off some cool motorcycles. CHiPs simply banks on the “corny 70’s/80’s TV show turned into an ironic movie” convention to get by. Unfortunately, it doesn’t understand why something like the Jump Street movies work.
2. The Book of Henry
At the time of my writing this list, The Book of Henry has been out for exactly one day. However, I am confident in its position on this list. And, to be frank, it’s tied for number 1. The Book of Henry is a manipulative play on the 1980’s Spielberg/Zemeckis Amblin movies. And it fails at being manipulative or a proper homage to the Amblin films. It’s filled to the brim with on the nose dialog meant to underline the themes of the film. But, it comes off as a smug explanation of what’s going on in the film because the audience is too stupid to understand how truly deep it is. The Book of Henry is going to go down as a bad movie classic within the next five years.
1. The Shack
The Shack is WILD. It’s got a healthy dose of alcoholism, spousal abuse, child abuse, patricide, child abandonment, kidnapping, a child nearly drowning, and another child nearly drowning. And that’s all before the opening title card. What follows is what could have been an interesting story about a man struggling with his faith in a higher power after a life filled with tragedy. But, instead, The Shack concerns itself with how best to keep its viewers shielded from the evils of the secular world rather than come to terms with circumstances that may be uncomfortable. It is the worst movie I’ve seen this year because all the others on this list teach people how not to make a movie. The Shack teaches people a dangerous lesson about how they should live their lives.
Alright, let’s move on to the films that are easy to gush about.
5. Beauty and The Beast
Disney has been re-making their classic animated films for a few years now. And they’ve all been pretty good! Beauty and The Beast is no exception. Bill Condon directs the film with the sweeping visuals necessary to fit the story. The new additions to the story flesh out the film in a really great (and dark way). And the musical numbers have the classic Disney sheen to them. Emma Watson’s Belle is the weak link here, which is unfortunate given the fact that she has to carry most of the film on her shoulders.
4. The Fate of The Furious
It’s a great period for action movies. And at the forefront of that wave is The Fast and Furious franchise. In the last decade, they have become the standard bearer for big-budget action. I reacted to the last film rather coolly, and my expectations for this one were low since the film was missing Paul Walker. And Walker’s presence is definitely missed, The Fate of The Furious delivers a high-octane soap opera that sets the franchise up to go out with one final trilogy before riding off into the sunset.
3. Get Out
Jordan Peele is a master of understanding genre. His work on Key & Peele showed off how he consistently deconstructed genres to their basic building blocks and poked around with them. In Get Out, he does the same thing, but with the horror genre. There is quite a bit of levity in the film, but it stands on its own as a new horror classic. The film is full of paranoia and dread surrounding race in America. But Peele plays around with that as well. Rather than confederate flag waving, gun-toting rednecks, the film’s racists are a well-off liberal family. It’s a fascinating piece of work.
2. John Wick: Chapter 2
If The Fast and The Furious carries the torch for blockbuster action films, the John Wick films started a whole new tournament of indie actioners. The first film is a stellar piece of action film making on a budget. And while the creators had more freedom in the sequel, they still delivered a tight film that builds on the world set-up in the first one and takes Wick further into the Hell he thought he escaped. Each action sequence is a meticulously choreographed ballet of death, and Reeves did most of his own stunts. It’s a fantastic middle piece to a three part story.
Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine for the majority of the last twenty years now. And with Logan, he gives the character a glorious swan song. It’s the best X-Men movie by a mile, and one of the best superhero movies ever. James Mangold directs the film with care and restraint. He allows the plot to ebb, flow, and be quiet for minutes on end. But when the action hits, it’s nearly overwhelming. Logan is a film that will go down as one of the best of its kind. And it features one of my favorite final shots in all of cinema history.