I realize we are in February of 2018 but as long as I am ahead of the Academy Awards, I am okay. After all, a lot of these films will be re-released after the awards, depending on how many awards are given to the films nominated. Granted I did not get to see every one of 2017’s films, but I watched enough to make a fair list. I have written a full-length review for each of the films on my list so if you are interested you can read them on our website. What I list below is a quick blurb if you will of my choices. Counting down from ten here are my personal favorite films of 2017.
10) John Wick: Chapter 2 – Some would think there was not much room to go with this material after John Wick wowed audiences. But, they would be wrong. Not only does John Wick: Chapter 2 offer some of the best action sequences of 2017, it actually expands on the story and mythology of John Wick’s world of assassins. This includes a lot of history behind the Continental Hotel which is ground zero for most of the goings on in the assassination business. This film is every bit as fresh and fun as its predecessor and with some sprinkles of the same clever humor and amazing stunt work.
9) Get Out – Jordan Peele’s darkly funny and almost satirical horror film proved that it can have its roots in politics but still be accessible to everyone. Daniel Kaluuya plays a young black man who is living with his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage(Allison Williams). They are visiting her parents as a couple for the first time in upstate New York and what starts out as a normal visit quickly turns horrific when Rose’s family may not be as pure as they try to seem. The acting, especially by Kaluuya, is terrific and I mention that only because if the acting is off, a film like this could be an unintended disaster. Peele’s writing and directing are first rate and Get Out never lets up for a minute. Throw in three deliciously creepy performances by Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford and Caleb Landry Jones rounding out the Armitage family and you have one eccentrically entertaining film.
8) Logan – This is Hugh Jackman’s farewell performance as the Marvel Comic’s Wolverine or Logan, as he is named. Since we already had a Wolverine film, Logan is an aptly titled film and it is one of the best Marvel Comic Book films ever brought to the big screen. Logan (Hugh Jackman) has fallen on hard times. He drinks too much, is addicted to pain pills and still is taking care of an even worse off, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) with the help of Caliban (Stephen Merchant) another friendly mutant. Holding up in the desert in abandoned farming silos, Logan is barely holding on to life itself but still gets the charge of a young mutant girl with the bad guys in hot pursuit. Logan is able to touch on subjects of substance abuse, dealing with disease and still offer plenty of the action we have come to expect with the character of Wolverine. Ironically, this is one of the most human films in the Marvel universe.
7) Star Wars: The Last Jedi – After all of the bashing fans gave this film, I was stunned to see how much I enjoyed it. Encompassing everything I look for in a Star Wars film, writer and director Rian Johnson’s vision is simply amazing. Fleshing out characters like Rey (Daisy Ridley), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and even further into Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill in the best performance of his career), Star Wars proves that you can still deliver some depth to the story and keep the action coming. Rian Johnson has taken a beating by a lot of fans who think he went in the wrong direction. I am proud to say I am not one of them. He is reportedly wanting to write and direct his own trilogy of Star Wars films to which I say, “Go for it. I will be there to buy my ticket!”
6) Wonder Woman – In a year that saw Hollywood come clean about all of the horrendous treatment of women in general, I would have thought that a film like Wonder Woman would have justifiably cleaned up some nominations. Shamefully, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman failed to get a single nomination which is just unbelievable to me. If ever a film earned them it is Wonder Woman; a film that single-handedly saved the DC Comics from circling the drain. Director Jenkins has crafted a superb film with great action, a career-making performance by Gal Gadot as the title character, sumptuous cinematography, a strong supporting cast and a terrific score, Wonder Woman is firing on all cylinders. I would say “Shame on Hollywood” for not recognizing this film, but alas, Hollywood has no shame. Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot show what truly strong women can do.
5) Wind River – Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River is a beautifully written film about personal loss but it is also a taut and exciting mystery that is seamlessly woven throughout Sheridan’s script. Jeremy Renner, in the best performance of his career, is a grieving tracker who aids a green FBI agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to find the killer of a local Native American girl whose frozen body was found buried in the snow. Sans the flashy action and CGI wizardry, Wind River opts for a slow burn of a story that is never boring or uninteresting. It is has been compared a bit to David Fincher’s Seven, especially the climactic shootout, but Taylor Sheridan is wise to make Wind River his own creation. To me the comparison is unfair. While Seven is dark, brooding and effectively grisly, Wind River still heads for the light of hope and healing even after a horrible crime was committed. The final scene between Renner and Gil Birmingham as to grieving fathers is truly special and touching.
4) Silence – Although Martin Scorcese’s Silence technically came out at the end of 2016, it did not hit our theaters in Nashville until January of 2017. This is a powerful film about faith and how far we are able to pursue our faith even when it means the torture of others over our faith. Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver play two Jesuit priests sent to seventeenth-century feudalistic Japan to discover the whereabouts of their mentor, fellow priest Ferreria (Liam Neeson). Never mind the fact all three are supposed to be Portuguese, the acting in Silence is some of the best of the year. Garfield, who was nominated for his performance in Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, should have had another nomination thrown his way for Silence. This is a long and difficult film to get through but I mean that in a good way. The final conversation between Garfield and Neeson is priceless and the last shot of the film reveals something about Garfield’s character which shows why Scorsese is simply one of the best storytellers in the game.
3) Thank You for Your Service – Rarely has a film shaken me to my core the way Thank You for Your Service did. Silence did, too but in a different way. Having never served in any branch of our military, it is the single biggest regret I have in my life so when I come across those who have served or still are serving, they have nothing but my utmost respect for what they and their families endure. Writer and director Jason Hall has a keen eye and ear for what brave soldiers endure when they return home. Suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) three soldiers return home hoping to pick up where they left off when the originally left for war in the Middle East. They come home only to find themselves plagued by guilt from what they saw and did in the war. Based on three real soldiers, Miles Teller, Beulah Koale and Joe Cole shine as those soldiers in a painful and heartbreaking story trying to reconnect with their humanity and their families. This film is an emotional powerhouse and not to be missed.
2) Baby Driver – Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is not only his best film to date it was the second best film I saw all year. Immensely entertaining from start to finish with star-making performances by Ansel Elgort and Lily James, Baby Driver is simply one of the best heist pictures I have ever seen. Featuring substantially effective performances by Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez and yes, Kevin Spacey (sorry, but he is in this film and does a fine acting job). Baby Driver is light but still involving, funny and well written but still maintaining its dark nature, Edgar Wright shows why his films are special. Peppered with wit and charm, Elgort and James light up the screen with amazing charisma and chemistry. The action is superb as is the soundtrack which is a character in and of itself. Baby Driver had the number one slot on my list almost the entire year, it is that good. That is until October….
1) Blade Runner 2049 – Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 was not a film I wanted to see. Since Blade Runner first was released in 1982 it has been my one of my own personal favorite films since then. The original has about seven different cuts of the same film with The Final Cut being my particular choice as the most definitive version of Ridley Scott’s vision. I did not want anyone screwing around with this material and as pre-production facts were parsed to the press, I became even more adamantly against this film. Ryan Gosling….are you serious? I was not a fan of Denis Villeneuve’s 2016’s Arrival which was gushed over by other critics and even garnered several Academy Award nominations. If this is what I had to go by to justify a sequel for Blade Runner, I’d rather not, really. Well, boy was I wrong. Blade Runner 2049 is simply every bit the classic the original film still is. Denis Villeneuve’s version of Ridley Scott’s vision has been impeccably shot by Roger Deakins, scored by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch and played by Ryan Gosling as K, a replicant assigned to tracking down and eliminating other replicants. There is not one wasted shot, not one moment that felt tired or unoriginal. Blade Runner 2049, for me in 2017, personifies perfection in filmmaking. For my money, it simply did not get better than Blade Runner 2049.
Here are a few films I really enjoyed but I was not able to include them on my ten best. That is why there is only ten.
Thor: Ragnarok and Spiderman: Homecoming both from Marvel. Marvel shows that you can keep the comic book films coming to the screen and still make them fresh and fun. The Lost City of Z, based on the true adventures of British soldier Colonel Percival Fawcett was also an involving film about the mapping of the Amazon River with Charlie Hunnam providing some of the best acting in his career. Writer, director, editor and sometime actor Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes at Night is a perfect example of what can be accomplished by a well-written script and an edgy performance Joel Edgerton. A strong supporting cast also propels this independent film that was marketed as a horror film but plays more like a drama/thriller about the survival of a family after a disease has wiped out most of humanity. It Comes at Night is creepy, dark and unnerving. American Made starring Tom Cruise as real-life pilot, Barry Seal, a man recruited by the CIA to run ops for the United States government during the 1980’s, is not the first film about this material. But with Cruise as your lead and Domhnall Gleeson as the shady CIA officer who recruits him, you can’t go wrong. It also helps if you have a proven director like Doug Liman at the helm. Solid entertainment from start to finish.
There you have it, folks. Soon I will be posting the worst films of 2017. But for now, here is to 2017, a fine year for films.