Phantom Thread and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Is this it? Are we done playing catch up with 2017? I just absolutely LOVE IT when studios hold back on releasing Oscar Caliber Films to the general public until weeks after they’ve already been reviewed, examined, and voted on! VERY helpful for the small time outlets who don’t get critic screenings or screener discs sent to us! Oh well. It’s certainly too late for films like this and I, Tonya to be considered for my best of 2017 list (which I’m SURE Neon and Focus Features absolutely CRUSHED about, but I must stay firm!), but that doesn’t keep them from potentially being good movies that you should check out! Better late than never I suppose, though it’d be nice if Hollywood would stop releasing EVERYTHING awards worthy in a two month period to only VERY selective markets; ESPECIALLY when half the time they don’t even get the awards they’re looking for! Does this movie deserve the countless accolades it has accrued in the tail end of Oscar Season, or is this the latest victim of a hype machine that severely overestimates its actual quality as a film? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the story of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) who unfortunately shares the name of a crappy Billy Bob Thornton comedy, but aside from that he’s a meticulously detail oriented dress maker who extends his obsession with perfection to his personal wife as well as his work life. His schedule is quite regimented, his appearance is consistently maintained, and his relationships to others are carefully filtered through his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) who’s basically the only person keeping him on track and able to focus his eccentricities on something that’ll keep the lights on. One day, Reynolds goes off to the countryside and finds a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) that he is immediately smitten with. He asks her on a date, they have a lovely dinner, and by the end she’s half naked while he’s dictating measurements to his sister who’s writing them all down for future reference. Whether or not Reynolds is TRULY attracted to Alma rather than the shape of her body is not entirely clear, but she goes away with him back to the big city to be his protégé of sorts and to help him model the dresses he makes. However, because neither one of them are all that great at communicating, the expectations they put on each other that neither of them are able to meet start to put a strain on the relationship and could potential be volatile enough to destroy his life, her life, and even his sister’s life as everything could come crashing down upon them if they can’t sit the hell down and decide what they really mean to one another. Will these two act like grownups and get their issues resolved before they explode in a fiery maelstrom of passive aggressive horror? Will either one of them start contemplating drastic actions that will certainly not solve their underlying issues? Wait, isn’t this the plot to like… every romantic comedy ever?
I, Tonya and all the images you see in this review are owned by Neon
Directed by Craig Gillespie
We can’t have an Oscar Season without at least ONE off the wall biopic, right!? Sure, you’ve got the more straightforward historical dramas like The Post and Darkest Hour, but despite Scorsese striking out with The Wolf of Wall Street at The Oscars, it still made a huge impact and many have tried to recreate its success since then. Not only that, but the fact we’re starting to look back at the nineties in a historical context with at least two recent OJ Simpson projects getting a huge amount of critical praise, it’s no wonder that right after him we get to the other big crime story of that decade; the assault on Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding’s possible involvement with it. Does this reexamination of one of the biggest names in nineties pop culture end up being a phenomenal look at her life and the decade around it, or is this a cynical cash grab trying to get a jump start on Gen X and Millennial nostalgia? Let’s find out!!
Back in the early nineties, Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) was one of the most prominent names in Women’s Figure Skating; having come from a very poor background and taking a lot of her social upbringing into her performances. Despite Figure Skating being a sport that prizes tradition and perfection in its (none of that uncouth “rock and roll” music!), they could not ignore Harding who was a natural on the ice and the first American female figure skater to land a triple axel (a feat accomplished by Midori Ito and Mao Asada from Japan a few years earlier). Still, it wasn’t an easy road as she had to deal with her abusive mother LaVona Fay Golden (Allison Janney) and her just as abusive husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan); both of whom seemed hell bent on making her life miserable despite swearing they were only looking out for her best interests. Things get complicated though when Tonya’s anxiety and even paranoia start to get to her as the weight of her modest celebrity as well as the skills of other skaters made her quite distressed. From here, we start to get speculative about what happened, but the general idea is that one of Jeff’s friends Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser) has a friend of his attack one of Tonya’s rivals Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) and the big mystery surrounding it is just how much did Tonya know about what was happening. Did she orchestrate the attack herself? Was she aware that it was going to happen but said nothing to stop it? The movie addresses these questions and more as this dramatized retelling of her story gives us not only a look at the facts as we know them of the case, but the media circus that built up around it and the… interesting characters that were involved. Oh, and there are a few skate numbers as well!
Den of Thieves and all the images you see in this review are owned by STX Entertainment
Directed by Christian Gudegast
You know, after The Commuter turned out to be a giant pile of nonsense, I don’t know if I’m up to getting even more of it shoved directly into my face with yet another gritty Cops and Robbers story that looks about as good as a January dump job would. Maybe I’m wrong though! Maybe my expectations are so low after seeing Liam Neeson fight The Illuminati on a train that something much more grounded will be a welcomed change of pace! I highly doubt it, but if last year taught us ANYTHING, it’s to not give up hope even if everything is telling you that THINGS ARE ONLY GONNA GET WORSE FROM HERE!! Does this manage to be the cinematic oasis in the crappy wasteland known as January Releases, or is this sucker yet another mirage that crush our spirits and keep them crushed until around March? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with the theft of an armored car by a bunch of BAD ASS criminals led up by Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) whose crew of Merry men includes Levi (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), Bosco (Evan Jones), Mack (Cooper Andrews), and the new guy Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr) . The crime is investigated by a crew of BAD ASS sheriffs led u by Nick Flanagan (Gerard Butler) whose posse of shitty lawmen includes… uh, okay I don’t think any of them other than Gus (Mo McRae) got a name, BUT THEY’RE BAD ASS!! They’re so BAD ASS in fact that they break a WHOLE lot of civil liberties in the process of tracking down Ray’s crew and finding out what they’re up to. It turns out that Ray wants to rob the Federal Reserve of all its discarded money that is set to be shredded, but with BIG NICK breathing down his neck, the plan becomes that much more dangerous; even if they’ve got an armored truck to work with. Can this den of thieves pull off a scam that no one has ever been able to pull off, especially if they’re being watched the whole time? Will Nick and his pals put their dicks back in their pants long enough to do some ACTUAL police work and arrest these guys at some point? You know, come to think of it… why should I care about ANY of them!? They’re all bad! Wait… what if… the title of the movie… IS REFERRING TO BOTH GROUPS!? MOVIE SHOCK!!
Sometimes you see a movie that will just not leave your brain as questions keep running through your head about what it all meant and what it was trying to say. I guess this is TECHNICALLY one of those movies, but certainly not for the reasons the filmmakers hoped for because I have nothing but contempt for the asinine questions that I’m left with after watching the damn thing which is made even worse because there ARE no answers. This was just a super sloppy movie PRETENDING it knew what the hell it was doing and it utterly failed to convince me otherwise. Since keeping things bottled up is not a particularly healthy way to deal with something, I decided to let YOU all know what questions I was pondering while watching this silly film and how the movie fails to address them in any adequate or satisfying way! Before that though, let’s have a full rundown of the plot so that you all have a better idea of where I’m coming from if you haven’t seen the movie. Trust me, I’d rather spend my time recounting it here than make ANYONE feel like they’d have to sit through this drivel just to understand what the heck I’m talking about! FULL SPOILERS AHEAD!!
The Commuter and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Now that the end of year hold overs are finishing up their rounds at the box office, it’s time for the TRUE January releases to show themselves which are becoming less associated with absolutely dreadful movies with each successive year, but can still be considered a dumping ground for stuff the studios felt couldn’t hack it in more competitive months. I guess a Liam Neeson action flick isn’t the WORST way to herald in the New Year, but then I’m pretty sure there are people who still wake up in a cold sweat thinking about Taken 3 and the infamous fourteen cut fence jump. Will this movie be another strike against the increasingly fragile belief that January films tend to be terrible, or will this only reinforce those notions for yet another year? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with exceedingly average older white dude Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) going about his daily routine and living the exceedingly average older white dude life. That is until he gets fired from his exceedingly average older white dude job for lousy capitalist reasons, and is now facing the prospect of financial ruin; right before his son heads off to college too! Things seem rather for the guy as he boards the train with nothing to look forward to other than telling his family the devastating news, but fortune seems to be in his favor as a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga) offers him twenty-five grand now and seventy-five grand later if he can just do one small insignificant thing. Find a person on this train that has something of value in their bag, is traveling to Cold Spring, and goes by the name “Prynne”. The woman gets off at the next stop and while Michael is more than happy to hold onto that twenty-five grand she gave him up front, he feels a bit hesitant about finding this person to claim the other seventy-five. Fortunately for THE BAD GUYSTM that the mysterious woman is forking for, as well as the audience I guess, they kidnapped his family anyway so he has no choice but to find the passenger known as “Prynne” before anything happens to them! Will Michael not only find “Prynne” but figure out what THE BAD GUYSTM are planning to do once they find them? What can Michael do when every move he makes is being watched by THE BAD GUYSTM… somehow? How many non-Taken Taken movies is Liam Neeson gonna have to make before they give him one that doesn’t suck!?
Proud Mary and all the images you see in this review are owned by Screen Gems
Directed by Babak Najafi
The big story around this film is that Sony (Screen Gems’s parent company) has basically buried this movie before it came out due to a severe lack of advertisement and promotion despite being everything that studios claim they want in films nowadays; i.e. a strong female lead and something that will appeal to black audiences. I mean it’s POSSIBLE that this film is utterly terrible which is WHY the promotion has been so low key, but even for a January release this seems to have been under represented; especially when stuff like The Bye Bye Man and Rings managed to get a decent amount of commercials and trailers prior to their releases. The trailer at looked good to me at least, but so did plenty of other trailers for movies that ended up being terrible, so who knows how this will turn out. Will this be another classic film that the studios were fools to have very little faith in, or are we in for a classic that will unfairly fall right below everyone’s radar? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Mary Goodwin (Taraji P Henson) performing a hit on some dude for reasons that I’m SURE are quite justified, but in the process he finds out that *GASP* he had a little boy! I’m… sure she’s never dealt with that before, being a hired killer and all… so she decides to spend the next year afterwards looking for this kid named Danny (Jahi Di’Allo) and where he ended up after the sudden death by brain splatter, and she eventually finds him working for a Fagin knock off named Uncle (Xander Berkeley) who naturally treats the kid like shit and barely feeds him. SURELY the best way to inspire hope in your under aged workers! That whole “catch more flies with honey” thing is bullshit anyway! Mary though doesn’t seem to like the current situation so she goes and blows the dudes brains out and takes the kid home with her. Sadly for her though, he wasn’t just some schmuck using kids to sell cocaine; he was connected to the Russian Mob which is in an uproar and believes that the crime family Mary is a part of that’s led up by Benny (Danny Glover) as well as his son Tom (Billy Brown) are responsible. I mean… they’re RIGHT considering Mary was the one who did it, but she’s not exactly telling everyone THAT pertinent detail, so the three of them have to find a way to keep the peace between the two families or prepare for an all-out war that could destroy them both. While this is going on, Danny is trying to figure out just who this mysterious lady is that not only saved him from a crappy boss, but is also letting him stay in her apartment free of charge. Will Danny find out the terrible secret that Mary is keeping that motivated her to seek him out in the first place? Will Benny and Tom figure out who’s REALLY responsible for the chaos this one death has caused, and will Mary be considered expendable if they do? Can Taraji P Henson kick enough ass in this to be the NEXT big action movie revelation!? Hey, if Brendan Fraser pulled it off, why not her!?
The Post and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Oh good! Now that it’s officially 2018, the rest of us can FINALLY see the best movies of 2017! Because THAT doesn’t seem like a backwards approach to releasing critically acclaimed films; ESPECIALLY ONES BY THE MOST FAMOUS DIRECTOR OF ALL TIME! Sigh… whatever. My feelings about theatrical release schedules aside, there’s been a lot of buzz about this movie being yet another Awards Darling what with the big name cast, the legendary director, and the timely subject matter given the political climate we are currently and TORTUROUSLY living under. That said, I’m not always the biggest fan of movies that seem so perfectly designed to soak up Oscars (*cough* The King’s Speech *cough*) and while I didn’t give it the most GLOWING review at the time, I do think that Spotlight is an unreasonably high bar for any film to try and reach which certainly seems to be the goal here given the topic at hand at hand the pedigree behind it. Then again, how can you go wrong with Spielberg? If your answer to that question is Hook by the way, you’re just flat out wrong. HOOK IS AWESOME!! Anyway, does Spielberg manage to eke out yet and another cinematic masterpiece to add to his collection, or is this simply relying on his name to sell it both at the box office and with critics? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows The Washing Post during the time The Pentagon Papers (a study of the likelihood of victory in Vietnam that indicated that the government knew there was no chance of winning yet still committed forces there anyway) were being released by The New York Times and Nixon’s Justice Department was doing what they could to stop it. Now The Washington Post wasn’t doing so well as its owner Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) is seen as an ineffective leader for reasons that CLEARLY have very little to do with her actual abilities (I WONDER WHAT ELSE IT COULD BE!?) and was in the middle of trying to find outside investment when this all started to unfold. The editor in chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) is itching to get his hands on some of the papers that The Times had gotten and were forced to stop publishing due to a federal court injunction (COMPLETELY unprecedented in American history), but even if he WERE to find the it’d be a huge risk for everyone involved; especially Miss Graham who has the most invested in the company. Eventually though, one of the assistant editors Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) manages to get his hands on not just the parts The Times obtained, but more or less the WHOLE damn report straight from the source itself Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys). With Ben having EXACTLY what he wants and a staff of likeminded reporters to back him up, it all comes down to Miss Graham to decide whether or not the risk of publishing these documents in her paper outweigh the potential good that having such documents out there will do for journalism and first amendment rights. Even then though, if they jump the gun and the Nixon Administration wins whatever court battle would certainly lie ahead, that could lead to an even WORSE seizure of unchecked executive power. Will Kay find a way to get the truth out there without losing everything else in the process? What can The Justice Department and Nixon do to this newspaper and its staff if these documents are released in spite of the injunction placed on The Times? The REAL question is, will this movie win MOST of the awards or ALL of the awards?
Are you ready to close the book on 2017 once and for all? I certainly am, and with this last look back at the games I played for the first time that year, I can not only close that book but toss into a fire and then kick it a few times for good measure! But hey, I guess not EVERYTHING was bad that year; even if half the games I’m referencing in this list are from different years altogether! Heck, even the bad ones managed to distract me from the nonsense going on in the world every freaking agonizing day, so why not take one last look at them to see what we can learn from them? Let’s get started!!
Developed by Sonic Team
Here’s the thing about this game which I played for the very first time in 2017. As much as it has the reputation of being THE WORST GAME EVER, it honestly isn’t THAT bad of a time. It’s not GOOD by any stretch, but I never found it to be flawed enough to be more than just boring which is STILL better than offensive garbage like Hatred or Call of Juarez: The Cartel. Heck, on a fundamental functional level, I actually found it to be sounder than something like The Evil Within which ALWAYS felt extremely uncomfortable to play; like it was some sort of facsimile of a video game made by people who had only ever heard of such a thing. Sonic 06 is absolutely terrible, but in the pantheon of bad games I find it to be more amusing than painful which I GUESS is an achievement of sorts; just ask Tommy Wiseau! Sonic is always a fascinating character to think about as there’s something… engrossing about him and the myriad of stuff that has built up around him, and maybe it’s this weirdly unique identity that has allowed it to preserver despite numerous setbacks like this game, Sonic Boom, and even the rather poorly received Sonic Forces. The fact that ANY character survived the monstrosity that this game ended up being (even if I don’t think it’s THE WORST thing ever) is a testament to the longevity of Sonic’s success and the way he managed to connect with fans. It’d be impressive if it weren’t for the fact that it basically let Sega get away with releasing such terrible games with impunity.
I tend to play a lot of video games whenever I’m procrastinating on whatever movie review I desperately need to get finished, or whenever I need to settle the existential panic of the world collapsing around us in some horrifying slow motion train wreck that many of us have been cheering on for terrible reasons and everyone else is trying desperately to prevent. Needless to say that this was a VERY good year for constant escapism, but that’s not all that video games are good for considering how many great can be just as life changing and inspiring as any movie, television show, book, or other creative work! Some games I enjoyed this year, others I hated, and most of them didn’t actually come out in 2017, but I’m gonna talk about all of them anyway because it’s the start of a new year and we ALWAYS have to take just a few looks back before we can head into the future! Let’s get started!!
Developed by StudioMDHR Entertainment
I don’t get it. I don’t get how THIS game, which truthfully is pretty good, managed to be yet another hill for the ETHICS IN BULLSHIT crowd to rally around for whatever perceived grievances that supposed haters had with the game. I’ll tell you right now that, while I love the art direction and think the game play is solid (if not OVERLY inspired), the difficulty is a legitimate detriment to the game. Never in my life have I heard people defend so vociferously the idea that a game being overly frustrating isn’t an actual flaw in the experience; especially since that’s basically been the consensus for over a decade now when it comes to critiquing retro games. Just look at any given AVGN video and chances are you’ll find that one of the major breaking points for the guy is an unforgiving difficulty! Maybe this is a conversation that NEEDED to happen regarding accessibility (especially for those with disabilities) and how much a potential lack of inclusivity should impact how we evaluate and rate games which will hopefully be one positive outcome of this whole fiasco. To me, the problem could have been sidestepped entirely if they bothered to have an ACTUAL easy mode instead of the fake one in the game right now where you CANNOT PROGRESS IF YOU USE THAT MODE! I would have been annoyed if the game just had the one level of difficulty (which is extremely hard), but the fact that they put in a mode that the developers clearly have no respect for (why else would they gate keep progression?) is what got my blood to boil and made the whole experience that much more miserable. This is a really solid run and gun game with amazing bosses and a very cool art style (which in and of itself is a conversation worth having that the gamer babies were up in arms about), but I can say with absolute confidence and certainty that the game is worse for not having difficulty levels so that players of all skill can enjoy it.
Alright everyone! Now that we’ve had our fun with the GOOD list, it’s time to put on some work pants as we start wading through the unimaginable dreck that was yet another “fun” aspect of the abysmal year that we all had to suffer through. You know what though? Most of us made it through to the other side, so if looking back at the year that couldn’t beat us and having a laugh (or one last bitter tirade) at the pathetic excuses for entertainment that made daily life just a little bit worse, well I think we all deserved it, don’t you?
Anyway, let’s not beat around the bush any longer! WE’RE DIVING RIGHT IN!!
Dishonorable Mentions: Death Note & Bright
Since I didn’t even bother trying to watch another Adam Sandler movie this year, this dubious distinction goes to two OTHER Netflix features; albeit it for very different reasons. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t particularly mind either of these films as I think they had some good ideas buried within their mediocre (and cheap looking) execution with Death Note having an interestingly different take on its main character (a whiny little punk with issues of inadequacy instead a megalomaniacal genius) and Bright having an ALRIGHT set up for what is essentially a weaker version of 16 Blocks. That said… yeah, these films are REALLY flawed and in glaringly offensive ways. As much as I like the idea of taking some of the pomp and circumstance out of Death Note and reframing Light Yagami to be a less foreboding figure, I don’t see why that necessitated him to be white since they never play with that change in his identity within the text of the film. There could have been a component of White Privilege to the story (especially with L being black), but that seems to have never been the intent on the part of the filmmakers who simply seemed to associate AMERICAN REMAKE with WHITE AS DEFAULT. Similarly, the half-baked and ham fisted social commentary in the script for Bright creates one of the most cringe inducing screenplays of the year which has Orcs standing in for Black People in a world that still has Black People, and it even finds an excuse to get Will Smith to say “Fairy Lives Don’t Matter” before beating said fairy to death. Sure, the movie picks up once it gets away from its proudly ignorant views on race and becomes a straight up chase film with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (who’s under a decent enough make up job), but that’s hardly enough to excuse everything that it gets wrong in the process. Now I don’t want this to come across as Netflix bashing because they DO put out quite a bit of decent content as I’ve heard good things about First They Killed My Father, Beast of No Nation, even The Babysitter, and while it wasn’t my favorite King Adaptation this year I thought Gerald’s Game was pretty good too. That said, they’ve had quite a few stumbles over the years, pretty much starting with their awful Adam Sandler deal, and these two movies are just further examples of their awkward steps towards becoming a media empire of their own; something they’ll need to keep working on now that Disney is gonna own everything else in the world and will eventually come out with their own streaming service to try and crush them. If Netflix wants a chance to survive the Disney/Fox merger, they’ll need to avoid having clunkers like this clogging up their service.