As I said in my similar post about the best and worst TV of the year so far, it’s insane to think that June 2017 is already over, so that means it’s time for us to prematurely judge half of the eggs before the other half hatch and try to win awards given to them by pre-hatched eggs…it’s not a perfect metaphor, but I’m running with it. With that in mind, and six months of predominantly garbage films in our rear-view mirrors, let’s take a look at the best and worst movies of the ultimate rollercoaster that has been 2017, thus far.
BEST MOVIES OF 2017
10. The Ticket
I’m a sucker for fables, and this gorgeously shot fable, starring Dan Stevens as a blind man who regains his sight, hits all of the melodramatic boxes that give me this warm feeling inside. The Ticket is like being read a bedtime story that’s meant to teach you a lesson: it’s dark but not bleak, adult without being obscene, and well-crafted to the point that everyone can get something out of it. Sure, most people found The Ticket to be an overwrought film that hit you over the head, but sometimes a little heightened reality isn’t always a bad thing. And when it’s as well-acted and well-shot as The Ticket is, I’m along for the melodramatic ride.
9. The Girl with all the Gifts
Sure, zombie movies are getting kinda old when they don’t do things for a purpose, when zombies just become a threat instead of a metaphor. And then a movie comes along like The Girl with all the Gifts, a stunningly emotional tale of a 2nd-generation zombie girl and the human survivors who travel with her once their compound gets taken over. A brilliant example of using cinematic shorthand to cram a whole heap of story into an economical and quick 100 minutes, The Girl with all the Gifts is the best kind of zombie movie: a movie that would be a zombie film regardless of whether or not The Walking Dead was on television.
8. Their Finest
An absolutely unexpected treat, Their Finest is not a necessarily appealing flick on the surface; a period drama about propaganda screenwriters in WWII Britain doesn’t sound like a thrilling time. But Their Finest has something up its sleeve, and it’s not its incredible production design, perfect performances, and indelible charm. It’s that Their Finest is a true explanation of why film is so important, why it means the world to so many people.
Their Finest brought tears to my eyes that I was not ready to shed. Because this movie is about the thing I love more than anything else in the world. The thing that makes everything make sense. Their Finest reminded me why these things matter. And anytime a movie can do that, it immediately gets a spot reserved in my heart.
The best thing that Logan does isn’t its action, or its heartfelt send-off to characters we’ve loved for years. The best part about Wolverine’s final chapter is how it subtly explains to the audience why we even bother with these comic book movies. Through the eyes of the little girl that Logan has to protect, we see why these movies matter, why they bring hope to so many people. Setting aside the brutality and the clever filmmaking that make this a tremendously entertaining watch, Logan is the reminder we need in this superhero-saturated landscape of why the hell we even bother with these things anymore.
6. I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore
Like a Coen Brothers film with a little more heart and a little more gore, Macon Blair’s lovely directorial debut I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore owes a great debt to Blair’s friend and frequent collaborator Jeremy Saulnier’s films, but that doesn’t mean I Don’t Feel isn’t its own beast.
Starring Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood as two suburbanites who become fed up with the general terribleness of the real world, this movie constantly rotates between funny, darkly thrilling, and sincerely emotional. And the emotion is what grounds this insane tale, sticking everything in the film in a frightening realism so that every joke, every word, every gunshot feels like it means something. It’s a scrappy film, sure, but the scrap is the best part of it. Netflix buried this film, so definitely go out of your way to check it out.
Gory, honest, and emotional, the French cannibal drama Raw is one of the most esoteric experiences I’ve had in a while. A young vegetarian applies to a veterinarian school, and in an odd hazing ritual, is forced to eat a raw rabbit kidney. After this moment, something awakens in her; a sexual and carnivorous hungering for human flesh. What follows is harrowing and gripping.
Shot with absolute perfection and directed to a tee, Raw sets up tension and then zigs when you know it’s going to zag, creating a fascinating experience that more than makes up for its flaws with sheer ingenuity. For those who like a little emotion with their horror and a little gore with their coming-of-age stories, Raw is an absolute must-see.
4. Personal Shopper
I was a very big fan of Olivier Assayas’ previous film with Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria, when it came out in 2014. I know it wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I have the Criterion Blu-ray of it, and its wonderful. So when it was announced that they were teaming up again for the story of a celebrity assistant who is trying to communicate with the undead, I’m all there.
And I got exactly what I was looking for. Personal Shopper is a meditative, playful film that has just enough answers for its own internal logic, and if that’s not enough for you, the movie just skims on past you. I don’t blame anyone for hating Personal Shopper, but it’s one of the most profoundly affecting ghost stories in a while (as I sit here and twiddle my thumbs waiting for A Ghost Story to come to Nashville), and if you had even the slightest good will towards Clouds, check this movie out.
3. Get Out
Is there really anything to say about Get Out that hasn’t already been said? It’s a brilliant satirical horror that says more about the state of the world than any other film this year, masterfully put together by a first-time director in Jordan Peele, and acted with the finesse of veterans by many young actors. Get Out is an absolute necessity and deserves to be seen. So do that. See it.
2. The Discovery
If anybody hasn’t seen Charlie McDowell’s previous film, The One I Love, please do yourself a favor and check out that brilliant little film. So I was super excited to see actors like Rooney Mara and Robert Redford in McDowell’s follow-up, The Discovery. Much like The Ticket, The Discovery got mixed (at best) critical reception, as most people found it to be overdramatic and silly. But when it’s done right, that dramatism can be one of the most powerful tools a movie can offer. Jason Segel stars as a man whose father (Redford), two years prior, has scientifically proved the existence of the afterlife, which led to a wave of mass suicides across the nation. Segel returns to his father’s home to try and convince him to say he faked his studies so no more people will take their own life.
Redford and Mara are perfect here, giving some of their best performances to date, and while Segel does sag behind, it’s only because of the company around him. Impeccably shot, deeply emotional, and brain-meltingly weird as things go on, The Discovery talks about the afterlife and existence in such a deeply profound way that it’s a shame more people haven’t watched it so college dorm rooms all across the country can have another thing to debate.
1. Baby Driver
Edgar Wright made a movie. What else is there to say?
But seriously, Baby Driver is the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in a long time. I’ve already seen it twice and it’s only been out for a few days. Bold, meticulously crafted, and infectiously happy, Edgar Wright is 5 for 5 making some of the most charming, hysterical, and emotionally resonant films that English-language filmmaking has ever had the privilege of seeing. Am I biased because it’s Wright? Probably. Doesn’t change the fact that Baby Driver is my favorite movie of the year.
WORST MOVIES OF 2017
10. Kong: Skull Island
This movie is stupid and lazy. Yes, Kong: Skull Island got a lot of critical love and audience appreciation, but I will stand my ground (I get a small kick hoping this article comes up when some wingnut googles ‘stand my ground’) shouting the truth; that Kong: Skull Island is a pandering, dull, poorly acted, badly colored film with horrendous CGI and lead-eyed action sequences. Seriously, you would have been better off sleeping through this bore of a film, whose only real saving grace is its sometimes astonishing cinematography, although that often gets bogged down by poor color grading and awful editing.
Kong himself looks terrible, all the monsters he fights looks terrible, every now and again a moment of action would force me to crack the slightest hint of a smile, but it would all go downhill once anybody said or did anything. Kong: Skull Island feels like a backlash against Gareth Edward’s wonderful 2014 Godzilla, and did the exact opposite of that film; namely, being terrible.
9. A Dog’s Purpose
I hate the MPAA. I hate what it stands for, I hate what it represents, I hate that parents rely on it instead of actually parenting. A Dog’s Purpose is a great case for why the MPAA should exist, and they didn’t even do it right. Marketed as a family film that’ll bring a small tear to your mom’s eye, A Dog’s Purpose is one of the most miserable and grotesque films that has ever carried a PG rating.
Like a greatest hits album but if every hit was a dog dying, A Dog’s Purpose is a tonal mess, flinging its characters and logic every which way but loose until it settles on some of the most callous emotional manipulation this side of, well…
8. The Space Between Us
I sometimes have a bad track record with being excited for movies. I remember defending the Passengers trailer day in and day out because it excited me. And I did the same thing with the trailer for The Space Between Us. A teen romance about a boy born on Mars who sees Earth like we never have because we take it for granted? Sounds exactly like my kind of weepie.
Alas, The Space Between Us took my excitement and repaid me with savage emotional manipulation, complete garbage that the script tried to pass as science, and horrendous performances, even by legends like Gary Oldman. The Space Between Us does not help my trust issues.
7. The Mummy
Did anybody even really ask for this one? Tom Cruise has made some real hits recently, oh wait, no he hasn’t. Edge of Tomorrow and the Mission Impossible films are a lot of fun, but aside from that, has anybody ever gotten super excited for a Cruise performance in 15 years? Does anybody remember Oblivion? That movie is a masterpiece compared to the trainwreck that is The Mummy, an unintentionally hysterical “action” “horror” “movie” that tries to shove its franchise-building nature down your throat so far that you choke.
The Mummy is a terrible excuse for filmmaking, only made worse by director Kurtzman’s recent claim that he made the movie “for the fans, not for the critics”. Yes, but the fans hated it too. Everybody hated this movie that was made with no passion, no care, no emotion, no anything. And it’s not the only movie on this list to have charismatic black hole Annabelle Wallis in a lead role.
6. The Bye Bye Man
I hate this stupid movie, I hate its stupid title, I hate everything about it. Its goreless violence, its laughable tension, its moronic characters, all of it is so utterly painful to sit through. The Bye Bye Man may only be an hour and a half, but it feels like an eternity and a half to suffer through. I wouldn’t wish a movie this dull on my worst enemy, and the themes and emotions that it brings to the table and then promptly throws away are horrible crimes. This movie could have been something. Instead it was a heaping serving of nothing, microwaved to a crisp to make sure it was the most accessible and least enjoyable thing in a long time.
5. Fifty Shades Darker
These dreadful movies are absolutely insufferable. Where the first Fifty Shades of Grey was a painfully awful excuse for smut, thankfully, not only is Fifty Shades Darker ten minutes shorter than its predecessor, but it is occupied with solely being dumb and dull instead of being painful. Damning with the faintest of praise, sure, but there’s no way that these insufferable movies were going to be any good. But do they have to be this boring?
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are still planks of wood, and now that there’s a jilted ex-lover/ghost (?) storyline to “spice things up”, everything has gone from slimy to stupid, and it’s a much better fit for the series, honestly. There’s still no redeeming qualities to this sexless, steamless movie, but at least it’s just laughably stupid instead of insultingly bad. Yay?
4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
Why did I even go see this horrendous movie? A film devoid of anything worthwhile, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul takes any faint good will left by the unfairly maligned first three films and takes a giant shit all over it. Every single joke is predictable, every emotional beat clearly seen from a mile away, every wacky situation so hopelessly tame.
It’s another example of things being designed to affect the most people and having the least impact. Here, the Heffley family goes on a road trip, and…things happen but they get closer? I don’t know. On the Intern.Cast, I described this movie as what it’s like to be lulled to death by a stroke, and I maintain that to be true. By the end of this experience, there was the smile of a lobotomy patient on my face. Take with that what you will.
If you don’t want the film Mine spoiled for you, don’t read this, because in order to accurately explain why I hate this movie, I have to spoil it. The film follows a soldier (Armie Hammer) in North Africa who steps on a landmine while fleeing gunfire, and has to keep his foot on said mine while he awaits rescue, and has fantasies of his home life and his fiancée (Annabelle Wallis, back again on this list). But at the end of the movie, he lifts his foot, accepting his death. And the mine is a dud.
This movie was already dull, and despite Hammer’s best efforts, no moments in the film feel real or impactful, but when the mine is revealed to have no actual threat, it strips the movie of any morsel of tension or good will it had built by accident, and leaves the viewer with a horrendously sour taste. God, I wish this was the worst movie of the year.
2. Transformers: The Last Knight
I also wish this was the worst movie of the year. Transformers: The Last Knight is a complete cinematic study in how not to tell a story. With nothing even closely resembling continuity with the other films, a constant jumping around in time and location, and exposition dumps that just make everything somehow more confusing.
And Sir Anthony Hopkins is in it. I know he’s been stooping low recently, but come on! There’s nothing to say about this movie. It should be watched in film schools as a cautionary tale on what hubris can do to a filmmaker, and never seen by anybody else ever again.
I wanted Mine to be the worst film of the year. I pleaded for Transformers 5 to be the movie that incurs my anger. But no. A little film called Unforgettable, which stars Rosario Dawson as an abuse victim who is starting to get serious with her new boyfriend/fiancée after her abusive ex is long behind her. However, her boyfriend’s ex-wife (Katherine Heigl) does not appreciate this, and attempts to ruin her life. Sounds like one of those stupid, sleazy thrillers, right? And if Unforgettable was just that, sure it’d be terrible, I hate these kinds of movies, but the absolute tastelessness is why Unforgettable is the absolute worst of this bunch.
The movie has no respect for anything, using horrifically dark imagery of abuse and sexual assault for a jump scare, and the whole movie is entirely centered around this narrative that anything other than the traditional family dynamic is inherent wrong and somebody has to be eliminated. Without getting too into it, that belief has caused a lot of problems in my own life, and it really makes me stop and think when that belief is perpetuated so clearly and without any reproach whatsoever. People will be dumber, angrier, more selfish people if they watched this at a young age. And am I being so hard on it because in my 7:30 pm screening of this R-rated movie last April there were five young children in the audience that are now going to suck a little bit more because of this movie? Sure, but this movie deserves it anyway. Avoid this reprehensible pile of garbage at all costs. Unforgettable deserves the same fate of the most vitriolic people and works in history; it deserves to be completely and utterly forgotten.
And so concludes our tale. God I hope the next six months have a better good-to-bad ratio than the first six months did. Here’s to hoping.