Kyle Brunet is a regular contributor to Film Flam. He resides in the good ole’ “north of the hub” North Shore. Kyle works at the independent CinemaSalem most days of the week, which allows him to see far more movies than he probably should. Good movies, bad movies, he doesn’t care. If it’s out, it’ll most likely be watched!
Let’s not sugar coat it: 2017 sucked. From US politics and the shit storm that is the current administration to the further deterioration of the world around us, it seems like everything is going to shit. Well, thankfully, 2017 graced us with plenty of good escapism at the movies and another phenomenal year of films. But with every good film comes a bad one, just like 2017 itself. So with that, I feel like it’d be appropriate to explore the best and the worst of the year, the highs and the lows, the films that will be remembered and the films that’ll make us remember how shitty Hollywood can truly be. So let’s dive in!
WORST: 10. THE VOID (dir. Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski)
Man, what a disappointment. Not only does The Void take the cake for the COOLEST monster designs of 2017, but it also arrived with one of the sickest trailers released this year. Go watch that trailer and tell me you’re not hyped to watch the full thing! Well, unfortunately, take out those cool creatures and you have one of the hollowest, most poorly paced, and horribly acted films of the year. Look, I’m down to look past the acting and the script if you gave me a fun thrill ride into a hellscape filled to the brim with monsters, but any sense of fun or horror is absent, as all the creatures are seen in quick flashes and never get to shine the way they deserve to. The Void makes this list just for the absolute disappointment I felt leaving the theater. For shame.
BEST: 10. BLADE RUNNER 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve)
Now THIS is how you make an R rated blockbuster in 2017. Filled to the brim with a sugary dose of visuals, and a story that’s almost more complex and interesting than the original Blade Runner (BLASPHEMY, I know, but hold tight!). I love Blade Runner, and it still ranks as one of the greatest science fiction films ever released, BUT– and keep up with me– it definitely fell victim to its own ambiguities. So now we have Blade Runner 2049, which continues the ambiguity created in the original, but pushes those ambiguities and themes to new places that the original could never achieve, which is what a great sequel should do. This is mostly thanks to director Denis Villeneuve who, as a huge fan of the original, gets the world and the characters inside of it almost more than Ridley Scott. Don’t copy, evolve! Do better while also honoring and appreciating the original, and that’s exactly what Blade Runner 2049 achieves. The same can’t be said for my #9 for the worst of 2017 list…
WORST: 9. JUSTICE LEAGUE (dir. Zack Snyder)
Film goers, we need to talk. Lately, a lot of people have been dismissing and forgiving bad movies on the grounds of “Well, it was fun at least!” No. Stop doing this. Stop allowing bad movies to exist just because “it wasn’t as bad as the previous one!” Justice League is bad. Batman v Superman is bad. It’s all bad. If you genuinely like these movies, that’s okay! I’m not going to argue! Just don’t list off problems and respond with “Well, that one scene with the Cyborg where he went ‘Booya’ was pretty neat!” We deserve better, so be vocal and honest! Don’t let Warner Bros. and Henry Cavill’s fake ass smile let you down again.
BEST: 9. BRIGSBY BEAR (dir. Dave McCary)
What an out of left field film to come out this year! Brigsby Bear is everything charming and irresistible about a good ole’ indie comedy. Brigsby explores so many close to home themes: the idea of abandonment; not knowing your place in a world that doesn’t quite understand you; and following a dream that everyone tells you is false hope. All of these story elements are wrapped in a world made up of movie making, one not much different to The Disaster Artist. I mean, hell, they both have very similar endings. It has problems, but don’t all movies? The imperfections are overpowered by the charm and love put into Brigsby Bear. 2018 will be the year of re-watching Brigsby Bear to death. Kyle Mooney, you charming son of a bitch.
WORST: 8. MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (dir. Kenneth Branagh)
Even after assembling an unbelievably amazing cast, Kenneth Branagh resorts to what he knows best and just circle jerks himself for two hours. Sure, it’s a beautiful film, and Branagh, who does well here, crafts a great build up and “who done it” mystery, but man does he suck at a reveal. The last 45 minutes are one of the most poorly executed chains of events I’ve seen all year. What was once a decent mystery becomes a terrible and absolutely miserable train wreck, one so bad that I was outwardly laughing at how things unfolded. The “Last 45 Minutes Completely Ruin the Movie” award goes to this piece of crap. On the bright side, the film is pretty quiet, so you could probably get a good nap out of this, which I guess makes it not that useless.
BEST: 8. LOGAN (dir. James Mangold)
I’m a sucker for comic book films, and trust me when I say this year was overall fantastic for comic book films in general. Between Thor: Ragnarok and Wonder Woman, we were spoiled with fun romps through heroic universes, but most never transcend further from just being great comic book movies. There are some, though, that transcend the genre and become more than just a great comic book film. Logan is one of those movies. James Mangold isn’t worried about telling a good Wolverine story, he’s more worried about making a great movie about broken men in a world where they’re no longer accepted, protecting the only hope for the future. I mean, shit, Logan is closer to Children of Men than any X-Men film. Logan is the perfect swan song for Hugh Jackman, letting go of the role that shot him into stardom, and giving him the sendoff he truly deserves. Thanks to the R rating, we get the Wolverine movie everyone’s been waiting for all these years. It’s bloody, it’s brutal, its brilliant. Read our own Anders Croft’s review for more!
WORST: 7. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (dir. Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg)
My biggest question walking into Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was “Does 2017 need a new Pirates film?” The answer is no, no we do not. Let this series die for fuck’s sake. They even made Javier Bardem boring! Blasphemy.
BEST: 7. THE DISASTER ARTIST (dir. James Franco)
I have a lot of personal connections with Tommy Wiseau’s “so bad it’s good” masterpiece The Room, so when I found out they were adapting Greg Sestero’s making-of book The Disaster Artist, I knew this would be THE most anticipated year of the film. Luckily, even with a few missteps that bothered me as a huge fan of the source material, I found The Disaster Artist to be the most entertaining and outwardly hilarious film of the year, while also being surprisingly heartfelt to Tommy and the craft of film making itself. Deep inside The Disaster Artist resides a phenomenally told and masterfully explored character study on Wiseau and his aspirations and dreams that eventually lead to the masterpiece we all know today as The Room. Even if you’re the most casual fan of The Room, I highly recommend The Disaster Artist as a great retrospective of the film and culture that was created over 15 years ago, and on the filmmaking practice itself. For more insight into how great this movie is, check out Oscar Goff’s review here!
WORST: 6. BEATRIZ AT DINNER (dir. Miguel Arteta)
Beatriz at Dinner is the type of film that old, disconnected white people go to see and come out all of a sudden becoming advocates against racism for a full five minutes. Look, don’t try to be gentle! Don’t let us down easy! Give us a hard hitting story, one that makes us realize just how fucked this country is and how the treatment of minorities is STILL a fucking problem. Instead, we get a semi-Trump wannabe John Lithgow yelling obscenities until I fall asleep, bored and annoyed. Beatriz at Dinner has a good heart, and it really wants to explain to audiences the injustices that happen day to day, but it handles them like a bull in a China shop. Also it’s just straight up boring. Go see Get Out instead.
BEST: 6. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (dir. Martin McDonagh)
Insanely underrated writer and director Martin McDonagh just outdid the Coen brothers with Three Billboards, his most accessible and streamlined film to date. After releasing the criminally underappreciated In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, McDonagh decided to channel his vision of midwestern America and all the messy racism and social issues that come from living in such a closed off part of the world. Telling multiple sides of the story in a world filled to the brim with raving lunatics and scumbags, Three Billboards doesn’t make you feel bad for anyone or anything. Everyone’s acts of violence and revenge against each other miss the point of the event that kickstarts the film: the three billboards themselves. As time goes on, it becomes less about the billboards, and crime at hand and becomes something socially bigger: a deconstruction of how nothing is black and white. The bad guys are three dimensional and the good guys aren’t that good at the end of the day, and thanks to McDonagh’s gentle but harshly put touch, Three Billboards showcases the world of Ebbing, Missouri perfectly. It also makes everything easier when you have Francis McDormand as your lead. Like, DAMN.
WORST: 5. ROUGH NIGHT (dir. Lucia Aniello)
Any form of clever comedy? Out. Taking a bunch of phenomenal female comedic actors and ripping the heart and soul out of them until they’re just making hollow and unnecessarily disgusting and unfunny sex jokes? Check! Rough Night is a less funny and much less clever Girls Trip, which sucks when you look at all the talent behind it. Not even the visual gag of a car crash stirred any form of laughter out of me. I was so excited to spend an evening in and watch Rough Night, but instead I was treated to an early bedtime. What a rough night indeed.
BEST: 5. MOTHER! (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
I actually wrote a review of mother! back in September that lays my thoughts out well, so just go read that! Spoiler: I love this movie to death.
WORST: 4. GHOST IN THE SHELL (dir. Rupert Sanders)
I absolutely adore Scarlett Johansson, so it sucks to see her in two spots in my worst films list, but it is what it is. The live action remake of one of the most adored (and one of my favorite) anime films was definitely shrouded in controversy, what with the obvious white washing and all, but I was still excited. I mean, come on, I was hyped to revisit the world of 2029 New Port City and the story of Major Motoko! Well, after just 30 minutes of Ghost in the Shell, my hype died down to a simple frown and I was immediately let down. Not only was it dull and uninteresting, but it was ugly and missed the whole point of the anime! Look, a live action Ghost in the Shell doesn’t have to be “good” per se, but come on, it can’t be ugly. You have a world full of an assortment of visuals that add so many layers to the story. At the very least, this should have been pretty, but the looks were the least of its problems. Not only does this film get the central themes totally and astronomically incorrect, but the Major we’re watching isn’t the Major we know and love. It’s a fraud and a fake, just like this movie!
BEST: 4. GET OUT (dir. Jordan Peele)
Get Out is really the best breakout story of the year: a low-budget, small-scale, socially aware horror film making over $100 million in just 16 days!!! I’m so damn happy for Jordan Peele and the talent behind Get Out. Not only is it one of the greatest and most well-crafted horror films in recent memory, but it explores topics of racism, white guilt, and privilege so masterfully that there is NO way it could ever be explored in any other way. I feel like there’s no better way to put it: Get Out is a horror masterpiece, and it’s so hard to explain how much I love it, so if you haven’t seen it, go do that right now. If you have seen it, go watch it again and again and again and again. These are the kind of movies that deserve our money and our attention. Let’s get this to the Oscars!
WORST: 3. A CURE FOR WELLNESS (dir. Gore Verbinski)
Did you know this movie was 2 hours and 26 minutes? I sure as hell didn’t when I started it at one in the morning. Somewhere deep, deep in The Cure for Wellness is a very interesting vampire story, but unfortunately it’s bogged down by over an hour’s worth of over dramatic scenery shots (yes I know it’s a beautiful movie, but come on) mixed with Dane DeHaan being Dane Dehaan for almost 150 minutes. Yeah, no. It’s not for me. Sorry.
BEST: 3. BABY DRIVER (dir. Edgar Wright)
Our own Oscar Goff wrote a phenomenal review of Baby Driver over the summer, so I’m going to link that here; for more insight on everything Baby Driver, go read that! I just have to say that Baby Driver is the most fun one could possibly have at the movies. Edgar Wright, who is one of the best, and one of my personal favorite working directors in Hollywood at the moment, crafts a phenomenally told and INCREDIBLY edited action film with Baby Driver. All the performances are top notch, the action sequences are astonishing and will be looked up to for years to come, and THAT SOUNDTRACK! I. Love. This. Movie. It’s the most happy I’ve ever been walking out of a movie theater this year, with the saddest being…
WORST: 2. THE EMOJI MOVIE (dir. Tony Leondis)
I went to go see The Emoji Movie at around 4:30 on a Monday by myself on an especially bad day, but it was free and, having just seen Detroit, I needed a little palate cleanser in my mind. As I sat down, placed my cup into the holder, and kicked my feet up onto the chair in front of me, I realized I was the only one in this theater. Depressing, but hey, now I can add my own commentary to it.
I get through a solid 10 minutes of trailers, and then it started– oh, not the dreaded Emoji Movie, but the weird and out of place Hotel Transylvania short that I had zero knowledge of beforehand. In hindsight, it wasn’t as bad in comparison to The Emoji Movie, but it sucked at the moment. This was mainly because halfway through the short, two kids and their loud mouthed mother came into the theater and sat directly behind me. A 200 something seat theater and they chose to sit right behind me.
So not only did I have to deal with The Emoji Movie, but I had to listen to two annoying dipshits behind me crying about popped corn and which candy is which as the mother sighs having been through this situation before. Now I’m just embarrassed.
“Maybe I’m meant to have more than just one emotion!” says our lead character Gene, played oh so delicately by T.J. Miller Light. Maybe I’m meant to have more than just one emotion, but at that very moment, I just felt gross. The Emoji Movie is bad, and everyone who worked on it should feel bad. This is the Donald Trump of movies. I give The Emoji Movie a poop emoji/meh emoji.
BEST: 2. THE FLORIDA PROJECT (dir. Sean Baker)
Sean Baker’s 2015 film Tangerine was my favorite film of that year, so it’s no surprise that his newest film, The Florida Project, would be an incredibly similar experience and absolutely blow me away. Following a very similar formula to Tangerine, but with a more Hollywoodish scope, The Florida Project follows a girl named Moonee as she innocently traverses the lower class world of poverty stricken Orlando and the motels that cater to tourists, just outside of Disneyworld. The bleakness of everything is obscured through the lens of Moonee in what is one of the best forms of storytelling this year has to offer. All the behind-the-scenes commotions between adults and any form of fear produced by low-to-no income is background noise to Moonee. Instead, she explores her very own Disney with her friends, without a care in the world.
All of this comes to a head at the end, with a whimsical and dreamlike sequence that shows there is still hope and that everything will get better; nothing is permanent. It’s the perfect ending, and my personal favorite scene of the year, for a film so bleak. The Florida Project offers something we could all use: a positive ending. Sean Baker is a genius and, while I see The Florida Project not being for everyone, how could one not respect the artistry put into his work?
WORST: 1. THE MUMMY (dir. Alex Kurtzman)
The Mummy is one of the worst movies I’ve ever had the displeasure to watch. Not only is it absolutely atrociously made, but it also equates to nothing more than a cash grab by greedy businessmen to scarf as much money into their throat holes as humanly possible until they barf green. Tom Cruise, yet again, proves to audiences that, yes, he can get lower in his career, just by picking a film with the moral attributes of a 40-something-year-old rich and deeply sexist white dude. Spoilers ahead!!! We find out that the whole point of Sofia Boutella’s Mummy character is to find Tom Cruise, who’s now immortal after a devastatingly hilarious plane crash sequence, and sleep with him. So, the whole film hinges on the idea that the bad guy needs to sleep with the good guy, while the good guy is also secretly trying to sleep with his much younger partner, who does nothing but try and “look good” for the male audience. I’ve never been so disgusted in a movie. The Mummy isn’t just a terrible film, it’s morally wrong, creatively void of any originality, and a disrespect to cinema. R.I.P. The Dark Universe, and good riddance.
BEST: 1. LADY BIRD (dir. Greta Gerwig)
Some movies capture a moment: one moment so important and so vital to someone’s future and life that it shapes them to become the person they truly want to be. Lady Bird is a movie about that moment. Taking place during 2002/2003, with the controversial War on Terror providing a backdrop to the state of things, Lady Bird tells the story of one teenage girl’s discovery of herself and who she truly is. Traversing Sacramento, Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson, played perfectly by the incredible Saoirse Ronan, struggles to fit in and to be accepted by anyone, including herself and her economically stricken parents. Through these events, she discovers her own self-worth and the absolute importance of *that* moment.
The ever-so-talented and absolutely brilliant Greta Gerwig makes her directorial debut with Lady Bird, and it sure as hell doesn’t seem like a debut. Every character is carefully concocted not to showcase just their faults, but what makes them human. The people who treat Christine wrong are human, and in that humanity we find ourselves. We’ve all made mistakes, like pushing a friend away, or lying to someone and acting differently from who we are just to fit in. This isn’t a story so much as a piece of life. Lady Bird is handled with care that even skilled filmmakers don’t have, and it just proves that Greta can only fly higher for here.
On top of all of this, Greta GETS mental health and social politics more than any current director. Topics of identity, sexuality, feminism, and the places we belong in society are approached with a real sense of humanity and respect for the characters at hand. These aren’t issues to side on– these are real world issues that no one really discussed or brought up at the time, but are important to push ourselves culturally towards acceptance. Painted with strokes of brilliance, Greta Gerwig is the most human director to have ever graced our silver screens, pushing themes that Noah Baumbach wishes he could explore even half as good as Greta does.
Lady Bird is a masterpiece, technically speaking the best made film of the year, and my personal favorite of 2017. It’s a showcase of a certain slice of life that is relatable to a lot of people, yet personal to Greta and something no one could take away from her. I surely hope this doesn’t get snubbed from awards season, but even if it does, this will go down as a classic much more than, say, The Post will. Lady Bird is EVERYTHING. All hail our cinematic savior Greta Gerwig!