At this point, the only thing more cliché than being thankful that the preceding year has finally come to a close is whiny Star Wars fans being wrong about The Last Jedi. Yes, I am in fact THANKFUL that we have finally gotten out of the horror show that was 2018, but 2019 looks to be a lot more of the same, albeit with a SLIGHTLY less destructive Congress and a lot more speculation on the 2020 election. Jeez, the idea is so deflating to me that I’m actually kind of glad to take one last look at the preceding year before charging face first into whatever nightmares 2019 will surely have for us. Anyway! Let’s take a look at the GOOD movies that came out and hope that the year ahead of us will bring us even more great films to love! ON WITH THE LIST!!
Honorable Mentions: Black Panther & Ant-Man and the Wasp
While Marvel’s usual output is at a consistently decent quality, this was a year of great highs and one PHENOMENAL low for the company which we’ll get to on the bad list. On the good side though, these are the first two movies they’ve released since I’ve started doing these lists that have come close to making it on the top ten, and frankly they are my favorite films that they’ve released in some time with the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 which arguably should have been included on last year’s list. Black Panther, while still feeling a bit too conventional to the Marvel Formula and having a few oddly placed ideas here and there (how does a civilization THIS advanced still determine their leader through DEATH MATCHES!?) was quite the revelation and became something of a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the year which we’ll get to further down on this list, and while I’m not quite on board with it winning for Best Picture, I do see where a lot of people who are advocating for it are coming from. Ant-Man and the Wasp on the other hand felt like something new as well, albeit in a much less radical way as Black Panther, and is the template I’d like to see from Marvel films going forward; where there’s room for films that don’t take themselves QUITE as seriously and don’t hinge the fate of the world on the outcome of their adventure. Sony and WB might be gathering a bit of steam with their recent films, but this year showed once again that it’s gonna take a lot more to unseat Marvel and Disney from their well-deserved throne of money, and hopefully THESE are the kind of films we’ll be getting from them going forward instead of… well we’ll get to that one later.
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.
Hark! Is it that time of year again!? Yes, it is time for the film critics to have their yearly ritual of ranking the films we saw in order of how much (or how little) venom we can summon up for it, and while I would love NOTHING more than to get this crap-tastic year over with and race towards the future, we can at least afford one more look in the rear view mirror before leaving it all behind. Also, it’s worth pointing out that I didn’t get a chance to see all the movies that came out this year like The Florida Project, and there were films that I couldn’t have seen even if I wanted to like The Post, Phantom Thread, and I, Tonya, due to them getting extremely limited releases in the last weeks of the year. If the studios can’t be bothered to let me see the movie, then I can’t be bothered to wait several weeks to finish up this list. This is a 2017 list, so I’m finishing it in 2017!
Sure! Let’s start this off with a pairing so disparate that it’s likely to cause whiplash! Then again, it’s a probably a good indication of what to expect from the rest of the list as I try to find room for a little bit of everything… and by everything I mean legitimately good movies that everyone likes and amazing B movies that only I seem to like. The Big Sick was one of the better comedies of the year as I’m sure it’s been mentioned on several best of the year lists other than this one, and rightfully so! It didn’t quite make my top ten due to a bit of shaky structuring (time is a bit elusive in it) and the fact that it’s hard to overlook how much of this story is coming from only one viewpoint within it (being written by Nanjiani and Gordon who DID end up working out, it feels a BIT antagonist towards his parents who are drawn more broadly than hers are in the telling of this story), but there’s genuine heart in the way that Nanjiani is trying to navigate such an awkward situation where the right thing to do is kind of murky and his feelings about it all are even more so. It’s a situation, like many in life, that could have ended VERY badly for everyone involved but Nanjiani and Gordon’s script is smart enough to walk that line between genuinely trying to express one’s feelings for someone and having a character realize when that’s not enough and when they need to walk away. It ended up working out for these two but only after Nanjiani left her to live her life and to make her own choices which is certainly a worthwhile lesson for many of us to learn and for Hollywood to pick up on considering how much the BIG ROMANTIC GESTURE is still a staple in so many so called romance films. Kidnap on the other hand… look, I just really had a lot of fun in it, alright!? I know it’s not going to be to EVERYONE’S taste (hence why it didn’t make the list) but it’s damn near perfect in being exactly what it wants to be. Calling something a NON-STOP ACTION THRILLER is about the most hack bit of marketing imaginable, but in this case it’s quite literally true and the film’s greatest asset. Halle Berry is chasing after the people who have kidnapped her son and she can’t stop moving. She can’t lose focus, can’t lose momentum, otherwise she’ll lose everything; and she knows that. Yes it’s over the top and barely makes any sense (there’s maybe three cops in the ENTIRE state) but the tension is there and if you’re willing to get behind its rather ludicrous concept you’ll surely stay engaged all the way to the bloody end of her bloody quest to save her son. Yeah, it’s goofy and has a few less than stellar editing shortcuts (why do they keep reminding us how low on gas she is when she NEVER RUNS OUT OF GAS!?), but they did a lot with what they had to work with which is often the sign of a great film more so than a film with many more resources not taking full advantage of them. Not a bad double feature if you ask me!
The Hitman’s Bodyguard and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Patrick Hughes
Okay, so MAYBE Atomic Blonde didn’t turn out to be everything I was hoping for, but that’s not the ONLY move I was looking forward to this year! Who DOESN’T want to see two of the best action/comedy actors of the modern age bounce off of each other in an over the top buddy shoot’em up!? That’s at least what we were promised in the trailers, but if there’s one thing that Atomic Blonde (and admittedly lots of other movies) has taught me, it’s that trailers aren’t always the best at telling you what a movie will ACTUALLY be about. I know; SHOCKING revelation there! Does the team up between these two titans of Hollywood blockbusters manage to work even better together than they do as individuals, or was this a team up worse than when Pouty Superman fought with Even Poutier Batman for no reason whatsoever? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) who is a TOP NOTCH bodyguard with his own security company that’s apparently richer than half their clients considering how styling him and his crew are, but his idyllic life of protecting the rich and powerful is abruptly brought to an end when someone he’s supposed to be protecting gets shot right the head by an unknown sniper. He spends the next few years stewing in his own self-loathing and is stuck protecting losers and drug addicted lawyers as he tries to climb his way back to the top. An opportunity presents itself though when super hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson) is to be brought before an international court to testify against the Belarusian Dictator (Gary Oldman) who everyone seems to know committed NUMEROUS war crimes, but only Kincaid has the evidence… for some reason. Michael is given a chance to possibly redeem himself if he can get Darius to The Netherlands in one piece as the Belarusian Dictator is sending out a lot of hired goons to put him in a body bag before he can testify. That’s not the REAL problem though. No, what’s REALLY gonna make this the mission from hell is that Darius is a TOTAL asshole who likes to do things dirty which clashes with Michael’s preference of being clean and professional about everything he does. It’s like The Odd Couple, but with guns and a lot more swearing! I don’t recall Walter Matthau calling people mother fucker before shooting them in the head! Can these two get along JUST long enough for Darius to testify and put that dictator behind bars once and for all? Will Michael finally redeem himself and get his life back on track after delivering Darius to the international authorities, or will he end up shooting him in the head out of sheer frustration before that? Seriously, does Samuel L Jackson own the rights to the words mother fucker? He HAS to be getting royalties considering how much he says that!
“I see you driving round time with the girl I love, and I’m like… MOTHER FUCKER!!”
Snatched and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Despite being one of the big up and coming comedians for the past few years, I’ve never had any real exposure to Amy Schumer’s work. Whether it’s her stand-up, her show Central, or even her previous movies like Trainwreck, she just never managed to come into my radar and I haven’t had much inclination to seek her stuff out. As far as this movie, I GUESS I’m interested to see how it turns out, not just so I can finally get in the loop with someone worth keeping an eye on, but because she also managed to get Goldie Hawn to costar who hasn’t been active in quite some time! That said, it looks to be another raunchy comedy (and not a particularly interesting one) which we certainly have plenty of already, but then again it’s never easy to tell just how well the jokes will land or how strong the interplay is between the leads just from trailers alone. Does this manage to be a standout film starring one of Hollywood’s rising star next to one of Hollywood’s best, or will this turn out just as bad as Dirty Grandpa? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) getting dumped by her longtime boyfriend (Randall Park) just before they take their non-refundable trip to Ecuador; leaving her with a broken heart as well as an extra ticket that none of her friends (or even her landlord) wants to take her up on. While visiting her overbearing and obsessively cautious mother Linda (Goldie Hawn), she finds an old photo album that shows what an exciting life she led before having kids and she decides to take her on the trip. It takes a bit of cajoling, but Linda finally agrees and they head to South America where Emily meets some suave mother fucker (Tom Bateman) that gives her the perfect vacation experience and promises to take her AND her mother out for even more fun the next day. Turns out that he’s the bait for a kidnapping ring which puts a HUGE damper on their vacation and they now have to find a way to not only escape but find a way back to the American embassy before they get into even MORE trouble. While this is going on, Emily’s brother Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz) is doing what he can to get the State Department to Seal Team 6 their asses out of there, but with his agoraphobia and poor social skills, he may not be up to the task despite everything that’s at stake… or is he? Can these two survive not only the harsh jungle environment but survive having to deal with each other for that long? What wacky supporting characters will they manage to run into along the way? Wait, is this seriously from the same person who wrote Ghostbusters!?
“I saw Taken. If we just keep our heads down and don’t rock the boat, someone will come and save us.” Mom, our Liam Neeson is your thirty year old son who can’t even face the neighborhood dog. We are screwed!” “Now why do you have to talk about your brother that way?”
Alright, well we got through all the GOOD stuff, so now it’s time to remember 2016 the way it SHOULD be; as one never ending nightmare of awfulness and broken dreams. There were no shortage of bad films this year which admittedly is true of ANY year, but the yearly ritual of remembering the worst of the worst must be maintained, and so I present the worst of what I had to sit through in the hopes that I can spare some of you the anguish that these films have caused me. Well there’s no point in dragging it out. Let’s get this over with.
Dishonorable Mention: The Do-Over
How bad is this movie? It is so blisteringly awful that I couldn’t even finish the damn thing. At one point (when I was truly naïve), I had decided to review all four of the Adam Sandler Netflix films as they came out and I managed to get through The Ridiculous 6 mostly unscathed. This proved to be quite the fool’s errand however as the film they did AFTER that is so much worse. I’ve got two thousand words already written about the movie, and I just abandoned that shit when we got to the part where Adam Sandler was fucking a blow up doll for no reason. I managed to see MAYBE ten minutes or so after that where David Spade was creepily (and successfully) macking on the window of the guy who’s identity he stole before realizing that there’s no way in hell I’m finishing the rest of this even for the purposes of a review. Neither of the main actors, Adam Sandler and David Spade, give the smallest of shits about this movie (the latter is straight up smiling during an emotionally distressing moment), the film is shot like a REALLY bad porno (Stormy Daniels is clearly a far better director than Steven Brill considering how flat and under lit everything is in here), and the film is just so unbearably mean spirited without the tiniest bit of legitimate humor to back it up… unless of course you think that Luis Luis Guzmán’s ball sweat dripping on David Spade’s forehead is the height of comic genius. Adam Sandler is just going to continue regressing further and further into his own comfort zone; not unlike someone else on this list, but we’ll get to them soon enough. Look, everyone knows better by this point than to take Adam Sandler seriously ever again, so you don’t need me to tell you that he’s made another crappy movie. If you’ve already managed to avoid this one, then keep on doing so; especially considering how much great content Netflix produces that you can be watching instead of this garbage fire from a bunch of lazy hacks.
So who else is ready for this year to be over? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who felt that things got pretty rough over the last twelve months, but we’ll get to the Bad list soon enough. For now, let’s try to focus on the things that were GOOD about 2016; namely the movies that you all should have gone out to see when they were still in theaters. Unlike last year, I did manage to see quite a bit more movies which has led to a somewhat more well-rounded list, even if you can probably guess which genres got a lot of love from me this year.
Without further ado, LET’S START COUNTING!!
Honorable Mention: Skiptrace
Now last year I needed an extra spot just to fit an indie film on my list as most of what my local theater got was just the mainstream fare and therefore those kinds of films completely dominated my Best Of list. This time I actually went through the effort of seeing the smaller stuff, and while most of them still didn’t make it on my list, at least there’s SOME representation this time around to help fill things out. Because of that, I figured I’d be less serious with my unofficial eleven spot and would choose a movie that wasn’t exactly GOOD but a hell of a lot of fun. It was a tossup between Skiptrace and Huntsman: Winter’s War, but I’m gonna give it to the Jackie Chan flick just out of sheer nostalgia. It’s a Renny Harlin action comedy starring Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville; basically making this the greatest thing imaginable for the ONE GUY out there that loves Jackie Chan buddy films but also thinks that Die Hard 2 is the best in the series and that Johnny Knoxville is an underrated actor. So basically it was made for me and no one else (Die Hard 2 is criminally underrated). Look, this movie is really sloppy, especially on the production side (why the hell is Jackie Chan subbed, dubbed, and ACTUALLY speaking English all in the same movie!?), but it’s got so many joyful and delightfully stupid moments like Johnny Knoxville being rolled down a hill in a garbage can or Jackie Chan getting in a fist fight while using a Russian Nesting Doll as a shield that it makes up for the cliché ridden script and lack of any real structure. Even the stuff that’s straight up incompetent is hilarious like how the script puts these two on a train for no other reason than to jump off of it two minutes later, or how a woman gets shot three times and there’s ZERO blood to show for it. It all adds to the goofy charm that makes it hard to stop watching even knowing just how bad the plot is that revolves around Jackie and Johnny needing to cross all of China looking for a damn cell phone charger. In the end, none of that ends up mattering all that much when you’ve got Johnny Knoxville trying to dodge bowling balls or when we get to see drunk ass Jackie Chan singing Rolling in the Deep while hanging out in a Mongolian village. If you’re looking for something incredibly silly and nonsensical with just enough sincerity and heart to avoid coming off as too cynically made just on Jackie’s star power, then you’ll definitely have a good time here. Also, if you like watching Johnny Knoxville get the crap beat out of him because that happens constantly!