Wednesday, January 10, 2018

10 Movies I Liked Just Fine from 2017

34. The Little Hours

This should have been really funny. It's some of my favorite comic actors in a farce about a medieval convent. There's Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Nick Offerman, and even Paul Reiser whom I didn't get enough of in Stranger Things 2.

And there are some good moments, but the whole thing was shot improv style and it really could have used a script. As it is, the humor relies way too much on the idea that its funny when nuns swear and take drugs and have sex. I mean, that is funny, but the film leans way too heavily on it when actual jokes would have been better.

Fred Armisen steals the show and nudges it up into this list instead of the Didn't Like category.

33. Kingsman: The Golden Circle

The Kingsman sequel pretty much repeated my experience with the first one. It's a great idea with some super fun characters and set pieces, but Matthew Vaughn always takes the joke (or the violence) two or three steps beyond where I want it to go.

That said, I'm impressed that Hanna Alström's character from the first movie is not only still around, but a major part of the new film. Her return was a nice surprise and added some emotional depth that I didn't expect. But there are some other characters from the first movie that I was extremely disappointed to see dropped and not all of the new characters had enough to do either. It's a strong mixture of fun and disappointment.

32. The Mummy

This one would have been disappointing had the extremely negative reviews not lowered my expectations. But it was still frustrating considering the hopes I had for the Tom Cruise-starring launch of the new Universal Monsters series.

I have no problems with old dudes in action movies, but the script clearly thinks that Cruise is at least 20 years younger than he is. And contradictory to Universal's marketing claims, it's not actually scary. It's an adventure story that has more in common with the 1999 Mummy than the 1932 one.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing and I had a good enough time with it. It's not the strong start to the Dark Universe (hate that name) that I wanted, but it's a harmless, mostly engaging summer flick.

31. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

I'm generally a fan of the Resident Evil series, thanks mostly to the first couple of entries. Resident Evil was as good as I feel like I should expect from a movie based on a that kind of video game and its sequel was even better. As the series progressed, it got increasingly wacky, but mostly enjoyably so. The only one I really don't care for is Retribution (the next to the last), which is everything that I don't want in a movie based on this kind of video game. But I always enjoyed the cliffhanger endings and watching writer/director Paul WS Anderson struggle to resolve them; almost as much as I looked forward to his finishing the series and completing the story.

I wish that The Final Chapter was a stronger ending than it is, but it circled back around to previous entries in a fun way and didn't completely fall apart. A whackadoo ending to a whackadoo series and that's good enough for me.

30. xXx: Return of Xander Cage

I was a huge fan of xXx when it came out. The Bond series was struggling (Die Another Day came out the same year) and Xander Cage was different enough from my favorite spy that I could embrace his ridiculousness without resenting that he wasn't more grounded. I fell so hard for the character that I never saw State of the Union, even though I like Ice Cube just fine. Which is all to say that I was ready and eager for the Return of Xander Cage.

Unfortunately, when I rewatched xXx to get ready for this, it hadn't aged well. Since it came out, Matt Damon (Bourne Identity came out the same year as Die Another Day and xXx; what a weird year for spy movies) and Daniel Craig have redefined what I'm looking for in spy heroes. Xander's hyper-masculinity didn't cut it anymore.

I was feeling the same way about the first half of Return of Xander as every single character gushed about either wanting to work or sleep with (or both) The Legendary Xander Cage™. But once the movie dropped that and settled into a cool team of extreme spies on a cool mission, I got into it and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

It's a shame that Toni Collette doesn't have any more to do than just look really serious the whole movie, though, because she's an awesome actor. But the rest of the characters are fun and I especially enjoyed the competition between Vin Diesel and Donnie Yen.

29. Beauty and the Beast

Between this and Last Jedi, I'm not sure which is the most divisive movie of the year. I have friends who raved about this and others who hate it with white hot passion.

I'm solidly in the middle. It's completely unnecessary in that what little it adds to the cartoon is inconsequential backstory to answer questions that no one was asking. But it's still fun to see live-action interpretations of these characters; especially the household items. And I'm never going to complain about seeing Luke Evans strut around being comically manly.

28. Alien: Covenant

As a sequel to Prometheus, it's an improvement. The characters still do stupid things for the sake of the plot, but the story is more clear this time and it's just generally more exciting and scary.

But as a prequel to Alien, I question its right to exist. It answers questions that I've been curious about, but I'm not sure that I actually wanted the answers to. Or maybe it's answering them in a way that I'm not satisfied with. I had a good time with it and would put it third in a ranking of the whole series (I'm still in the camp that doesn't forgive Alien 3), but that's a low bar and it's certainly not a return to greatness.

27. My Cousin Rachel

To talk about this, I'm going to have to spoil it, so be warned. If you're interested in seeing it, skip my commentary. If you like historical drama, gothic stories, or just Rachel Weisz, even though I didn't love it, it's worth checking out.

My Cousin Rachel is a gothic romance based on a book by Daphne Du Maurier (Rebecca, Jamaica Inn). And it's additionally intriguing because it's gender-swapped, with a naive male in the lead and a woman who's oppressing him. Maybe.

The problem is that the film (and the book, as I understand) leaves some question about whether the title character is actually manipulating the lead or if it's all in his head. I'm generally cool with ambiguity, but My Cousin Rachel (at least the film version) springs it on you at the end like it's a plot twist. The fun of a movie like this is realizing before the hero does that he's being manipulated, so there was never any question in my mind that possibly he wasn't. If the film was bold enough to say at the end that it was all in the hero's head, that would be pleasantly shocking. But simply putting a question mark on it wasn't enough.

Otherwise, though, great performances and I love the gloomy Cornwall setting.

26. The Hero

I haven't full processed this one yet. I just watched it at the end of the year and I've still got the Netflix disc at home so that I can watch it again with commentary. My initial reaction is that it's extremely well acted and lovingly shot, but that all of that is making a mediocre story seem better than it is.

Sam Elliott is one of my favorite actors and it's rare that he gets to play the lead. In fact, I'm not sure if I've ever seen him do it. He is amazing in this and not just because of his voice and mustache. There's one particular scene where I'm pretty sure my jaw literally dropped.

The problem is that he's playing a character I feel like I've seen many many times before: the dying, absent father looking for some absolution before he goes. The movie puts a pretty great twist on this by also calling into question his career choices and making him think about what he might do differently if he gets a second chance. But I'm not sure that's enough.

Really gonna have to try this one more time.

25. Snatched

I enjoyed Trainwreck enough that I was interested in more from Amy Schumer. And I thought it would be nice to check in with Goldie Hawn as well.

Snatched has some plot setup that gets in the way of the jokes for a while, but once the movie gets rolling it's super funny. And it is indeed great to see Hawn back in action. The surprise of the movie was Ike Barinholtz as Schumer's brother, but all of the supporting cast have big, funny moments.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

The Mummy is a movie that gives me a lot of schadenfreude mileage from taking in all the reviews that highlight the production's ineptitude at storytelling and failure to start a franchise. However I haven't taken the plunge to watch for myself. Maybe that makes me lesser person for not watching it firsthand, but I'm content to enjoy my mocking laughter from a safe distance for now.

I'm biassed against the live action Beauty and the Beast (which I actually did see) since I love the original so much. All it seemed to do was unnecessarily rearrange parts of the story without much discern reason and just felt so watered down as a result.

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

After the Disney/Fox purchase, I'm willing to put down money that in five to seven years, the Alien franchise will be rebooted with a new film titled "Ripley". How it fits into the canon is a job for someone else!

Michael May said...

I wouldn't suggest that you watch The Mummy and think it's totally fine for you to mock it. It deserves some mocking.

I'm curious though as to why you wanted it to fail. Again, no judgment from me; just wondering.

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

I certainly didn't want it to fail. The trailer didn't produce much more than an "eh" reaction so it was just easy to get on board the hate train once the reviews came in.

I'd still be in favor of a new universal monsters franchise if studio still wants to spin the wheel on this property again, next time lets just avoid putting the cart before the horse.

Siskoid said...

Seen very few of these, but I think you put them in the right category, even if I might have rated Kingsman or Beauty and the Beast a notch higher according to my reviews. There are only really two good Alien films when it comes right down to it, so Covenant is third best, which isn't saying that much.

Looking at my list, "Movies I Liked Just Fine from 2017" would include The Lost City of Z, Goon: Last of the Enforcers, Detroit, American Made, Stronger, The Foreigner, and Valerian.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Always great to read you lists because I am always send in the direction of something I never knew was out there.

Siskoid said...

Here here, Cal.

Michael May said...

Thanks, guys!

Siskoid, it looks like Lost City of Z fell off my list somehow, but this is where it would go for me, too.


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