Oh, you’re still here? Then take a look at some of the other things that stood out to me over 2017. They may not have made my “best of” list, but they’re definitely noteworthy.
O’Shea Jackson Jr. in INGRID GOES WEST
Ice Cube’s son may have gotten his big break playing his old man in Straight Outta Compton, but Ingrid Goes West is where he really makes his mark. The whole of the film that I called “Cable Guy for the Instagram generation” is pretty funny and fascinating, with its damning view of both social media and the L.A. community in general. But it’s Jackson as a vaping, Batman-obsessed, screenwriting landlord to Aubrey Plaza’s Ingrid, who ends up being the film’s secret weapon. He spends a good chunk of the movie charming the audience even as he’s manipulated into doing questionable things for Ingrid due to their bizarre descent into coupledom. Almost more importantly, he and Plaza are responsible for the funniest sex scene of 2017, with some laugh-out-loud, awkward, superhero roleplay.
The Fiance in ROUGH NIGHT
Rough Night didn’t make my worst of list, mostly because it has a few moments of genuine pleasure here and there. A few revolve, unsurprisingly, around Kate McKinnon as an Australian exchange student who at times feels more like she’s from another planet, but most of them come from Paul W. Downs as he completely breaks open the film as a beta-male turned diapered, caffeinated mess trying to save his engagement to Scarlett Johansson. If only the film had been about him, instead.
The Opening of KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
Truth be told, I still don’t think LotS is a BAD movie, per se. I still think it would have been much better received if it had been presented as an original property instead of a reimagining of Arthurian legend. But it wasn’t great. Except for that opening sequence straight out of a crazy Bollywood Lord of the Rings knock off where King Eric Bana faces off against a bunch of wizards on the back of elephants the size of Mr. Stay-Puft. It’s nutty, trippy, and the kind of high-fantasy fun the whole movie seemed to be aiming for, but just didn’t hit.
Liev Schriber, Sean William Scott and Wyatt Russell in GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS
The second Good film makes the series bookend the beginning and end of good-natured tough guy Doug Glatt’s hockey career. While not as good as the first (it’s too messy and the humor is too broad), these three outstanding performances anchor the film and show that Jay Baruchel should probably be directing more movies. Russell, especially, makes quite an impression as an unhinged star living in his father’s shadow, who lashes out wildly against anyone: friend, foe, or teammate. (Also, a nod to Elisha Cuthbert who makes the most of her small role and who I still have a crush on, going back to The Girl Next Door.)
Rihanna’s burlesque in VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
Valerian mostly feels like a missed opportunity to reach the same kind of giddy pop-sci fi heights that The Fifth Element wrangled onto movie screens. Dane Dehaan is largely responsible through his lack of charisma and flat performance, but the way the screenplay picks up and drops plot threads doesn’t help either. One of the worst offenders is a character played by singer Rihanna and a lot of CGI, who serves as a plot device and ultimately goes nowhere. However, her introduction is a reminder of how Luc Besson can seemingly do things American directors couldn’t/wouldn’t as she performs a surprisingly effective PG-rated burlesque dance that features about a dozen costume changes in the span of five minutes.
Superman in JUSTICE LEAGUE
It’s not really a surprise that Superman shows up in Justice League. He’s on the poster, after all. But what is surprising is that Joss Whedon doesn’t just fix what was done to him in Batman v Superman, but puts the best version of the character ever on the big screen. While the movie itself is simply okay, it’s worth seeing for this alone, if you’re a Superman fan. I still defend Man of Steel and Henry Cavill’s performances, but it goes without saying that the writing for him in BvS was disappointing, as is the waste of the impact that a Death of Superman storyline should have. The fact that this is put right in half a movie, even despite the weird CGI smear-lip, tells me that giving Whedon a Superman film after he’s done with Batgirl would be the best move Warner Bros could make for the character.
The Spider-Man Theme in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
Homecoming was a fun movie that made up for the awful “Amazing” films and Tom Holland does a great job as the web-slinger. There were so many moments when it was obvious that Marvel really cared about making this new series work, and wanted to let their fans know it in subtle ways. I’m hard pressed to think of a moment that put a bigger smile on my face than when an orchestral version of the theme from the ‘60s Ralph Bakshi Spider-Man cartoon series started playing over the Marvel logo. It was a small, perfect, low-key moment of fan service.
The gore effects in RAW
I described Raw as, essentially, a great werewolf movie without any werewolves. I stand by that. It wouldn’t work as well as it does though, if the handful of gore effects that mark the character’s descent into cannibalism weren’t as fantastically done as they are. They aren’t flashy, or over-the-top, but that’s what makes them work so well. The body parts and the bites look entirely realistic and matter of fact, and they’re pretty much perfect.
Armie Hammer in FREE FIRE
I was prepared for Sharlto Copley to give a crazy performance in Ben Wheatley’s one-building action experiment. What I was not expecting was for Armie Hammer to steal the whole movie for me as an independent agent who remains the epitome of cool in a crisis, even as tempers flare and bullets fly. I hate that he’s had so much bad luck with big budget films thanks to that Lone Ranger debacle of years ago, because he’s more talented than he’s often given credit for.
The apartment fight and ensuing car chase in ATOMIC BLONDE
Even with a strong sequel to John Wick, some great Marvel films and a new Kingsman movie, I’m hard-pressed to think of an action sequence that blew me away like the abject brutality of a scene in Atomic Blonde when Charlize Theron and a communist goon destroy each other in an abandoned apartment building. It is an all-timer in the middle of an already solid action flick. The choreography makes it look like one of the most painful altercations since The Raid 2. Then, they added a top-notch car chase on top of it.
Charlie Hunam in THE LOST CITY OF Z
I’m the first to call Charlie Hunam a block of wood. While that didn’t stop me from loving Pacific Rim, and it didn’t completely ruin Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur for me, he certainly doesn’t add much to most of the films he’s in. Imagine my surprise then when he gave a fantastic performance in the historical exploration drama, The Lost City of Z. A throwback to the kind of British pictures that actually celebrated brave men who would venture into the unknown for knowledge, he is able to be noble, obsessive and desperate in equal measure as he makes trek after trek to the jungles of South America to try to find a lost civilization that he believes may have rivaled the celebrated empires of antiquity. Let’s hope we see more of this from Charlie in the future.
Trey Parker in DESPICABLE ME 3
Animated sequels are often the victims of diminishing returns and Despicable Me 3, while still having plenty of gas in the tank, definitely finds itself succumbing to the usual clichés as an unknown twin brother for Gru is unearthed and trotted out like an Eastern European Cousin Oliver. However, the filmmakers did themselves a huge favor by casting South Park creator Trey Parker as an 80s obsessed villain, Balthazar Bratt, out for revenge over his cancelled TV show from 30 years ago. While Parker and Matt Stone certainly keep themselves busy with their South Park empire, occasional film projects and a hit Broadway musical, I can’t help but hope this will open doors for Parker to do more voicework outside his own projects, as he’s just plain great at it.
The No More Catholics Song in T2: TRAINSPOTTING
2017 was the year of the long awaited sequel, and many of them were much better than they had any right to be. But the one that decided to be as meta as possible, by simultaneously wallowing in nostalgia while pointing out how gross, false and irresponsible such an act can be, was the follow-up to Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Trainspotting. T2 catches us up on everyone’s favorite Scottish derelicts as they reach crossroads in their lives. The stand-out scene is when Renton and Sick Boy infiltrate the lair of an anti-Catholic group, still celebrating a military victory from hundreds of years prior, in order to steal their debit cards from the coat room. In a darker spin on the “sing the blues” bit from Adventures in Babysitting, they find themselves on stage and forced to perform. As they make up a tune on the spot in order to keep from being found out, and effectively whip the crowd into a frenzy, I was cackling like a maniac. (This despite being raised Catholic, myself.) It’s proof positive that Danny Boyle still has that magic touch to make something profane and crazy work like a charm.
The remote car chase in THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS
The eighth movie in the F&F cycle was the weakest one in quite some time. Who knew Paul Walker was so important to the films’ chemistry? However, it continued the series’ tradition of finding new, crazy stunts to pull. When dozens of unmanned cars begin chasing a security convoy while even more rain down from parking garages onto the street like a hailstorm, it’s hard not to admire their commitment to fresh automotive carnage.
Cake in JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
“I explode if I eat cake.”
That’s all, folks. Agree? Disagree? Think I missed something? Feel free to let us know on our Facebook Page!