I should note up front that, of course, this is only of the films I saw and feel like mentioning. I saw significantly less films last year than I have in years past when I was doing a weekly podcast where I talked about a film every week. Still, I enjoyed several films. Most of those films are completely mainstream films and I’m okay with that. I like an occasional indie film, but for the most part, when it comes to films, I’m just a main stream guy. I’ve learned to live with myself.
Here are the films I watched and enjoyed in 2017.
The Lego Batman Movie
Having been completely enthralled with The Lego Movie when it came out in 2014, I looked forward to The Lego Batman Movie with at least a little trepidation—though I was thrilled with the possibilities. Trepidation because I wondered if the The Lego Movie was a fluke and whether they would be able to recapture some or most of the elements that made it great. Thrilled because the great places available to go with Lego Batman are endless. It turns out I needn’t have been trepidatious at all. While maybe not quite as good as The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie did not disappoint as it mixed laugh after laugh with a lot of heart and a really great story—which is precisely what I love about The Lego Movie. In short, I give this film a solid two thumbs up and say it was a great way to start off my film-going year.
From the moment I saw the first trailer, I was all in. And even still I was not prepared for the sheer amount of soul, grit, and grimness this film poured into me from that big silver screen. This is Wolverine as you’ve never seen him before. For that matter, you’ve never known Professor X like this either—well, I haven’t anyway, I can’t speak to the comics, just the movies. This film is very dark. But it’s also a very satisfying story for Logan—and surprisingly perhaps, for Charles Xavier. I can also say that it’s easily the best installment in the three-film Wolverine series. The first one was middling (I know many hate it. I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t great). The second film was an improvement in every way and I liked it a lot. This film… this film… there’s just no comparison to make. It’s a completely different genre, completely different style, and it’s a lot darker. It’s not a film I could watch very often. But it’s told with heart and great technique. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you do.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Do not let the haters get to you. This film was fun, entertaining, told a great story, and really dug in deep on characters we learned to love in the first GotG film. It even dug deep into a character we barely knew from the first film. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that Michael Rooker’s character Yondu stole this film in the best possible way. I don’t know what was wrong with my eyes at that one point (you’ll know if you’ve seen it), but I’m sure someone must have been chopping onions in the theater. And as ever, Kurt Russell brings great playfulness and skill to his role of Ego the Living Planet. I’ve already watched this film twice since it came to home video and I’ll be watching it again… and again… and again…
A good friend of mine convinced me to go see this film with him, but I was reluctant. You see, I’m a fan of the Alien franchise—but in particular, Alien (the director’s cut). To be honest, none of the follow-up films have quite lived up to what Alien was. I was interested upon Ridley Scott’s return to the franchise with Prometheus, but heard so many mixed reviews about it that I skipped that film. So with reluctance I went with my friend…
And I loved it! This film is much more in keeping with Alien than any of the others in the series—which makes sense given that Ridley Scott is again at the helm. And yet this film does many of the same techniques that Alien does with a more modern film-making approach. That, in my estimation makes this one heckuva film. It was suspenseful, but also informative and intriguing. It left me wanting to see more of the Alien franchise and I have slowly worked my way through the films again and am now ready to try out Prometheus which I will do hopefully in the next few weeks.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
I love Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Just love it. Dead Man’s Chest is also pretty good, and At World’s End is kind of an enjoyable mess. The fourth installment however (On Stranger Tides), is pure hot garbage. Once again, I was hesitant about this film. But the story they chose to tell was fantastic. I was a little put off by the initial over-the-top action sequence and the follow-up guillotine sequence, but they’re manageable and worth waiting through to get to the meat of the story.
If I were making a “top X films” list, this would be very near the top—which is quite surprising to me given DC’s film track record here of late. Except for this film, the DCEU films are a dumpster fire and I did not have high expectations for this film. In fact, I wasn’t going to go see it until I saw the rave review the film was receiving, and I went to check out the hype. I came away with the distinct impression that I really wanted this film’s director, Patty Jenkins, to take over all the film-making in the DCEU. Instead of going for the flim-flam flash and eye catching nothingness that Zack Snyder goes for, she showed restraint in her visual sensibilities as appropriate, told a great story, and kept me engaged the entire film. And I must admit she completely pulled the wool over my eyes as to who the real villain was. I read a few reviews and talked to people who saw it coming—I feel like they must be lying, but whatever. Perhaps most importantly, I cared about the characters in this film—which is more than I can say for any of the characters in the other DCEU films. When Steve Trevor makes his sacrifice, I again sensed onions being chopped in the theater. But when Wonder Woman finally finds who she truly is, that was perhaps the most powerful moment of the film and great messaging. I want to watch this film a whole lot more often than I’ve had a chance to!
Having been a big fan of the Tobey Maguire era of Spider-Man, I felt it was way too soon and very disrespectful to reboot the franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man. Beyond that even, the film was trash. And the second was way worse, if that were even possible.
However, when Marvel reached a deal with Sony to start including Spider-Man in the MCU and guide Sony in the making of films, I was excited. This feels like the right time, and Marvel is having a hard time doing any wrong lately. I was not disappointed. Despite my love for those early 2000s films, This version of Spider-Man gets the character of Peter Parker more right than any previous film incarnation. What’s more, this film has a great villain who’s not trying to destroy the universe, the world, or even a continent, he’s just doing bad stuff because he’s been dealt an ugly hand by the government. And it’s totally believable. Once again, perhaps proving my gullible-ness, I didn’t see the twist of parentage for Peter’s girlfriend coming. It was a complete shock.
I highly recommend this film.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
This is just a really solid film that does some very interesting things, has a lot of fun, and lets you as a watcher of the film have a lot of fun too. The journey is familiar, but that doesn’t keep it from being good and entertaining. And of course, visually stunning. This film proves we’re finally coming to a point with CGI where it’s starting to get both good and believable.
What great fun! What a great cast! What a great villain! What a great script! So much laughing. Seriously, this is probably the most I’ve ever laughed in a Marvel film—and it’s not like they didn’t crack jokes before. But where the Captain America films have been going in a very serious (and good) direction, Marvel clearly felt like it was time to lighten the mood a little before things get really serious with the next Avengers film. It was definitely the right call. And yet they also told a good story—one in which my heart goes out to the people of Asgard. One where Thor must come into his own and accept his calling despite his misgivings. One that finally (seemingly) sees some measure of redemption for Loki. It also cuts a lot of fluff out of the franchise and gets rid of characters we’re supposed to like, but in fact, I kind of hate. If I were making an actual “Top X Films” list, this would be a serious contender for the top spot.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
And of course, the year wouldn’t be complete without a new Star Wars film—as is now tradition. It’s certainly a tradition I can get behind. I loved this film, top to bottom. Where with The Force Awakens I had to see it a second time before I was able to form an opinion of it, this film required no such thing. I loved every second of it. Rian Johnson took risks, and I believe they payed off. This film does away with certain questions and paradigms that J.J. Abrams set in motion in the previous film, and I think we’re better off for it. This film also gives us a great send off for Luke—who I loved in this film. I mean, the way he ended this film was bad-ass!
This is my other contender for favorite of the year to be honest. There’s just no way to fit into a short blurb like this how much I loved this film.
And that’s it. Those were the films I saw in theaters last year. You see, last year, I really only went to a film in the theater if there was a good chance I would love the film, and to be honest, I liked doing it that way. I plan on doing the same thing in 2018.