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Another exciting year of movies has come and gone. There were many surprise hits, expected good times, and huge disappointments all throughout 2017. If you’re a fan of tentpole franchises such as Star Wars and all things Marvel, I’m sure you had your fun at the theater. When it came to independent film, however, there was not enough out there to entice me to see anything unique. Even this year’s Golden Globes were kinda dull in nominations. With that being said, here’s my top 10 picks:
For mainstream audiences, this one went way under the radar. But if you’re on the Black Panther bandwagon for February, I strongly suggest watching this film to witness Chadwick Boseman as a bonafide movie star. From first glance of the title and poster, Marshall seems like a straight historical biopic about Thurgood Marshall, the famous NAACP lawyer who eventually became the first black Supreme Court Justice; however, Marshall the movie puts its focus on his first significant case involving the alleged rape of an established Connecticut white woman at the hands of her black chauffeur. The story proceeds as a tough legal thriller that emphasizes the working relationship between Marshall and the white insurance lawyer Sam Friedman played by Josh Gad. The latter gives a very engaging performance as well as co-stars Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, James Cromwell, and arguably one of the best actors today Sterling K. Brown as the accused chauffeur. Seek it out before you go see Black Panther.
Prior to the Fox/Disney deal at the end of last year, the X-Men franchise seemed to be taking a turn for the better. Though X-Men: Apocalypse proved to be disappointing, Deadpool would revolutionize the genre in 2016. Logan, however, would become a bold step in grounding iconic heroes into the land of mortality. This would be Hugh Jackman’s swan song in the title character that made him a star for 17 years and he goes out on a major high. The Unforgiven-esque premise has an aging Logan and a mentally ill Professor Xavier on the run to protect the title character’s daughter X-23 from her creators. With special effects at a minimum, we are treated to an emotionally gripping story that I felt was worthy enough for Oscar nominations. The R rating only enhanced the maturity that this franchise has embraced more so than raising the violence level. A fitting end to a memorable character.
8. Thor: Ragnarok
I can honestly say I was never a major fan of Marvel’s Thor or his initial solo movies. The original Thor was fine as is, but not something I could return to on repeated viewing. Thor: The Dark World felt more like Loki’s movie than a worthy continuation. Ragnarok would break all the rules and have fun doing it. Thanks to the direction of Taika Waititi and inspiration from the Guardians of the Galaxy series, this latest Thor film drops its Lord of the Rings-inspired tone in favor of a hypnotic Flash Gordon with lots of comedy along the way. Gone are Thor’s hammer, his hair, Natalie Portman, and the bland supporting characters. In were the Hulk (inspired by the Planet Hulk series in the comics), Jeff Goldblum’s memorable Grandmaster, a badass warrior played by the beautiful Tessa Thompson, and the hilarious rock creature Korg who wound up becoming my favorite character in the whole film. While some fans complained that the comedy was excessive, the rest of the world thought differently and gave this entry of Thor the best box office numbers in the MCU.
7. Blade Runner 2049
Everything about this sequel to the classic 1982 thriller based on Philip K. Dick’s story should have been glorious for movie goers: Ryan Gosling in the lead, Harrison Ford revising the role that always had geeks debating about his humanity, a phenomenal director in Denis Villeneuve, and the best cinematographer in cinema today with Roger Deakins. Unfortunately, not enough Blade Runner fans could come out to guarantee future installments; however, those who did give it a chance were treated to a visual spectacle with a story that plays out like a gigantic puzzle. It’s clear from seeing the film that the screenwriters who had previously worked on the original thought this story out for 35 years and did not treat it as a retrofitted sequel with the secret intent of being a reboot. You are left with more questions than answers once it’s over due to the expanded world that this film depicts. As much as I would rate it higher, Blade Runner’s biggest drawback was the 3 hour length and waiting for Ford’s Rick Deckard to appear by the third hour. Otherwise, give it a chance and watch it on the best screen possible.
6. Baby Driver
Absolutely one of the biggest surprises of 2017 was Edgar Wright’s first film after the Ant-Man debacle when he was pushed out of the film due to creative differences with Marvel. As a tribute to Walter Hill’s 1978 thriller The Driver, Baby Driver is so special in the way that it uses music and dance to tell its otherwise cliched story about a young getaway driver looking to get out and be with his girl. You get a low key but effective performance from Ansel Elgfort with supporting villain roles played by Jamie Foxx and John Hamm. It’s thrilling, intense (especially in the 3rd act), unpredictable, and most importantly a killer time. It shows exactly why Wright is one of the best talents behind the camera today.
5. Wonder Woman
Perhaps an even bigger surprise than Baby Driver was a DC Cinematic Universe movie that finally worked! After the debacle of Batman v Superman and the mess known as Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. managed to deliver an iconic superhero to the big screen with a coherent origin story inspired by 1978’s Superman: The Movie. Outside of Bruce Wayne references at the start and end of the film, Wonder Woman is treated the way it should be: A stand-alone epic tale about Diana Prince’s rise from an ambitious little girl in Themyscira to the powerful and inspirational warrior in our world. So much credit has to be given to director Patty Jenkins for bringing out the best acting from Gal Gadot, making Chris Pine an equally engaging hero/love interest, and balancing the line between drama and humor. Unlike the Ghostbusters reboot where there was too much man bashing, Wonder Woman is a perfect example of how nice it is to see men and women work together to achieve the same goal. The battle scene where Diana and Steve Trevor’s team protect villagers against the German army nearly brought tears to my eyes. This film set a new standard and course to improve the DC Comics films going forward.
4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
This rating may shock many of our readers here at CosBlog. Maybe not so much for others. Without spoiling it for those who have still yet to see Last Jedi, I’m on the side of having enjoyed the film. I’ve always been a major fan of director Rian Johnson and I thought he presented something fresh and far removed from the retrofitted direction of J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens. I felt it was Mark Hamill’s best performance as Luke Skywalker since Return of the Jedi, had some incredible effects sequences in a Star Wars film, and there was still a great deal of heart to the story and the theme of learning from failure. Yes, there were liberties taken that I didn’t approve of, some useless characters, and moments that were deemed unnecessary. Did it kill the franchise? Absolutely not. Did it make me excited for Episode IX? Not in the way I expected.
I went into this latest adaptation of the Stephen King classic with little knowledge except my memories of the ABC TV movie with Tim Curry and Bill Skarsgard filling his shoes as the evil dancing clown Pennywise. Little did I know that the story had been updated to the late 1980s with a direction reminiscent of The Goonies, The Gate, The Monster Squad, Stand by Me, and of course the latest Netflix sensation Stranger Things. On one hand, IT relies on the typical jump scares of current horror films enhanced with CGI. But what makes IT so special is the Losers Club. Between the chemistry between the kids and the trauma they face not only from Pennywise but also their own families and school bullies, I found myself emotionally invested in their stories from start to finish. You quickly forget about Tim Curry and the small TV budget from the 1990 miniseries because the comparisons are minimal. Having not read the King novel, I’m well aware about some elements from the book that did not make the screen (i.e., the devirginizing scene) that left King purists reeling. This film works fine without those elements. I was left for weeks and months still thinking about IT and the possibilities for who gets cast as the adult Losers Club in Chapter Two coming in 2019. Whoever fills these kids’ shoes will have an even taller order than Skarsgard as Pennywise.
2. Get Out
It may have come out last January, but Get Out had people talking all year long. Jordan Peele had been known for so long as a popular comedian. Get Out, however, turned him into an overnight film auteur with this bizarre, yet timely tale of a young black man terrorized by his white girlfriend’s family. Unlike IT, Get Out relies less on jump scares and more on psychological tension with race as the underline. The visuals added to that tension, specifically the moments where its lead character falls into “the sunken place”. Its impact in the discourse regarding interracial couples sparked as much debate as Fatal Attraction had done with committing adultery back in 1987. Even as tense as it is, Get Out also manages to be very funny thanks to the performance of Lil Rel Howery as the TSA officer. It was a surprise and a shock for this film to come straight outside the box in contrast to the other films I mentioned in this list and I believe this one will hold up for years to come.
1. Spider-Man: Homecoming
When compared to anyone else’s list, Spider-Man would more than likely not make the top spot. For me, however, the reason I put this at number one is very personal. I grew up a Spider-Man fan since 1989 just around the time Toy Biz put out the first Marvel action figures and the Marvel Universe trading cards. I enjoyed but not loved the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. I couldn’t stand the third one as well as the unnecessary Marc Webb reboot entries. So for me, I felt he hadn’t been done true justice on the big screen yet. When he finally came into the MCU as a result of the Sony/Marvel deal with Civil War, I fell in love not only with the classic-style costume but also Tom Holland’s turn as Peter Parker. What Spider-Man: Homecoming did was give us the character in a way I always envisioned. This was a John Hughes/Robert Zemeckis-inspired throwback with direction by Jon Watts showing Peter Parker’s high school life colliding with his secret identity, proving what it takes to become an Avenger. You had the Ferris Bueller element of the high school scenes mixed with the Marty/Doc relationship from Back to the Future parallel with the Parker/Tony Stark apprentice and master aspect. Then you have Michael Keaton’s return to the superhero genre as the Vulture in what would be one of the best depicted MCU villains who had a true humanity tale juxtapose his bad guy intentions while tying perfectly into events of previous MCU films. I can’t say it broke new ground from a special effects standpoint. As a film, however, it was the most fun I had at the movies with my pals in a long time and Tom Holland gave me the Spider-Man I waited for since I was 5.
A few honorable mentions to list to close out the year:
The Disaster Artist
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
War for the Planet of the Apes
Ingrid Goes West
John Wick: Chapter 2
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (Documentary)
Whitney: Can I Be Me (Documentary)