2017 In Movies

Every December for the past two years I’ve recapped all the movies I saw that year in Tweet-sized reviews. So without further adieu, here’s my 3rd-Annual year-in-review for movies.

Honorable Mentions: Movies that came out in 2016 that I didn’t catch until 2017.

 

  1. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
    BvS is a boring superhero movie, which is worse than it being “too dark,” “too rainy,” or “too joyless” even though it is also those things. (1/5)
  2. La La Land
    This movie managed to make me care about Mia and Seb’s romance, even if I didn’t care for Seb. Beautiful shots throughout the movie. (4/5)
  3. Moonlight
    2016’s Best picture is a tear-jerker with fantastic performances. Better romance than La La Land; loved that beach scene. (5/5)
  4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

    I wanted to like Jyn and company, but their motivation was shaky, and their mission was undermined by eye-rollingly bad cameos. (3/5)

  5. Hidden Figures

    I thought this was going to be a cheesy family film, but it kept the cheese to a minimum (mostly K.Costner) and dished a lot of real drama. (4/5)

    And now onto 2017 proper…

  1. John Wick: Chapter 2

    While not as strong as the original, JW2 expanded the lore without breaking it, and created a lot of memorable, entertaining moments. (4/5)

  2. Kedi

    Do documentaries belong here? Kedi is about cats in Istanbul, but it’s also about humans who love cats, and therefore, amazing. (5/5)

  3. Get Out

    I’m normally too scared of horror movies to even see them, but thankfully Get Out kept jump scares to a minimum and got psychological. (5/5)

  4. Logan

    Logan was praised for being dark and violent but it really didn’t do much for me. I wasn’t emotional about the end of Jackman as Wolverine. (3/5)

  5. Ghost in the Shell

    Aesthetics is all this movie has. I can’t believe they made whitewashing part of the plot. I’m sad to see good source material wasted. (2/5)

  6. The Fate of the Furious

    This is the worst F&F movie they’ve made since ‘09. They took a popcorn-flick-franchise into a dark direction, fridged a woman, & it sucked. (3/5)

  7. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

    I didn’t care for the original GotG, but this one’s themes about family resonated with me. I got emotionally invested this time around! (4/5)

  8. Wonder Woman

    Wonder Woman juggled three things, and did it well somehow! It did 1) origin story, 2) fish out of water rom-com, and 3) war drama. (4/5)

  9. Baby Driver

    Ansel Elgort & Lily James stand out in this heist movie with a focal twist. It looks great, and sounds great, as standard for Edgar Wright. (5/5)

  10. Dunkirk

    I was underwhelmed by Dunkirk. I heard over and over about how tense it was, but, I didn’t really feel it. At least it was short. (3/5)

  11. Atomic Blonde

    This is a super stylish movie with an awesome 80’s soundtrack tailored for me specifically! Unfortunately the plot was convoluted. (4/5)

  12. Logan Lucky

    Not an amazing heist movie, but this movie really worked as a comedy, made me appreciate John Denver, and had southern accent Daniel Craig. (4/5)

  13. Battle of the Sexes

    I was pleasantly surprised at how much this movie dove into BJK’s sexuality! Emma Stone was perfect, and S.Carell made Riggs sympathetic. (5/5)

  14. American Made

    I will keep seeing Tom Cruise in action movies, and while this was marketed as one, it’s actually just a clunky-comedy bio-pic. It’s okay! (3/5)

  15. Blade Runner 2049

    No movie this year demanded a rewatch like Blade Runner 2049. This movie has a lot of things to say, if you have nearly 3 hours to listen. (5/5)

  16. The Florida Project

    I couldn’t stop thinking about this movie. It combines poverty and the dangers of childhood, in an uncomfortable heartbreaking nightmare. (5/5)

  17. Lady Bird

    Lady Bird perfectly captures the feeling of being in your last year of high school. Saorise Ronan is great & Laurie Metcalf brings it home. (5/5)

  18. Murder on the Orient Express

    This movie’s a “whodunit” that doesn’t give the audience the chance to solve the mystery. The more I think about it, the less I like it. (2/5)

  19. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    Thematically, I think Rian Johnson has done something great with Star Wars. That said, I’m deducting a point for everything at the casino. (4/5)

  20. The Shape of Water

    This is a wonderful, science-fantasy romance, that almost functions on a family-movie level of logic, but deeply explores sexual themes. (5/5)

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I’ll start with a tweet-sized summary.
 
“Saw Guardians of the Galaxy 1000 days after US release. There was a lot of hype, but in the end it felt, just okay. Points for being unique.”
 
Now let’s break that down thought by thought. Why did I wait almost three years to watch this movie? Because I didn’t see anything super appealing to me in the trailers. Chris Pratt wasn’t yet sold to me as a leading man. I did not recognize Zoe Saldana as Gamora. I had no idea who any of these people were. In the end, not great reasons to skip out on an acclaimed movie.
 
Waiting all this time had an affect on the hype factor. In three years I didn’t run into a single friend who didn’t love this thing. Over and over I had friends who couldn’t believe I didn’t see Guardians of the Galaxy. “You have to see it.” “You HAVE to.”
 
So I finally saw it, in anticipation for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 — and it’s an okay movie. A solid 3 or 4 out of 5 depending on what day you ask me. It’s unique in some of the ways Dr. Strange was unique. It plays with comic book movie expectations and tropes, while still conforming to a lot of them. The music, great! Chris Pratt, great! Another Marvel movie that ends with too many enemies on screen? Yup!
 
Now, the version of me that wants to give this movie a 3 out of 5 is the one who “hates fun.” I like my characters dialed back a little bit. Fun is good, but constant quipping is irritating. It’s a sliding bar between Batman v. Superman (no fun) and Avengers 2 (Black Widow saying “beep beep” out loud). I don’t want superhero movies to go all the way in the no fun zone, nor all the way in the everything-is-a-joke direction. There are stakes in Guardians of the Galaxy, and dark backstories, but they take a back seat to the humor. The movie was on one level, and I wanted to be on another.
 
But the part of me that want to give this a 4 out of 5 enjoyed the comradery of the Guardians. They’re a family the same way that the Fast and Furious crew became a family. I forgive the movie’s overly jokey tone for the genuine bonds presented. I am, in fact, kind of excited to see what the sequel can improve on. Lower stakes, more one-on-one fights, fewer mass armies. Please, for the MCU’s sake, please don’t make another mvoie that ends with a huge CGI army.

2016 In Movies

I saw some movies in 2016. Let’s review them all with Tweet-sized reviews.

Honorable Mentions: Movies I saw In 2016 That Weren’t Released This Year

  1. Ex Machina
    Seriously beautiful and atmospheric sci-fi that makes you think. You’ll remember the music, and the performances of Isaac and Vikander. 5/5
  2. Bladerunner: Theatrical Cut
    Iconic cyberpunk aesthetic meets noir detective with cheesy voiceover and all too happy ending. AI themes surface level interesting. 4/5
  3. Only Yesterday (1991 Japanese Release, Dubbed in 2016)
    Kids in the audience probably hated this slow-paced emotionally gripping take on how childhood haunts our adult lives – but I cried. 4/5
  4. The Big Short
    This movie will make you laugh, and it will make you angry. Bale, Carell and Pitt deliver great portraits of the 2008 financial crisis. 5/5

And Everything Else…

  1. Hail, Caesar!
    Funny movie seriously hurt by misleading marketing. I enjoyed the film but felt duped by the commercials and I can’t get past that. 1/5
  2. 10 Cloverfield Lane
    John Goodman will haunt your nightmares in this claustrophobic movie. I liked the controversial ending. More Cloverfield please. 5/5
  3. Captain America: Civil War
    Zemo is the best villain a Marvel Movie’s ever had, and this movie is a shining light in a MCU that I’ve been losing interest in. 4/5
  4. Star Trek Beyond
    The best character moments a Star Trek movie has had, and a fun movie to boot – but the movie seriously lacks a good villain. 2/5
  5. Weiner
    Have you ever wanted to see a man’s life fall apart on camera? Then this documentary about Anthony Weiner’s mayoral race is for you. 4/5
  6. The Magnificent Seven
    Nice to see an action movie with some real stakes. Love Denzel and Pratt, the villain is appropriately slimy, and the crowd loved it. 4/5
  7. Doctor Strange
    Cumberbatch and Swinton make this origin story more than bearable, but the best part of the movie is that it breaks the MCU mold. 4/5
  8. Arrival
    I was captivated by the logistical problem that was at the center of the movie’s conflict, and emotionally stunned by the ending. 5/5

2015 in Movies

I saw a few movies in 2015, though I’m quickly running out of time to review them before the end of the year. My solution? Review all the movies I saw in 2015 in Tweet-sized reviews. 140 characters or less.

  1. Age of Ultron
    Vastly underwhelming sequel with the same plot as the original that left me feeling like I would never see another Marvel movie. 2/5
  2. Black Mass
    A movie with fantastic actors yet a pretty terrible plot. Should’ve been an hour longer because I think they forgot an ending. 3/5
  3. Furious 7
    I’m not ashamed to admit that this dumb movie about cars falling from the sky and bromance, made me cry in the theatres. 4/5
  4. Inside Out
    This movie sets out to do something more complex than any other Pixar movie. Eh plot. It mostly works, even if it’s not my favorite. 4/5
  5. Irrational Man
    I’m a sucker for Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone. This movie is up my alley, dark humor, romance, philosophy, poison. 4/5
  6. Jurassic World
    Oh my god. This movie was fun. Silly, stupid, turn off your brain fun. I clapped during the middle of the movie, that’s how fun it is. 5/5
  7. Mad Max: Fury Road
    Mad Max is probably my top movie for the year. Furiosa is probably my second favorite character of the year. What a lovely day. 5/5
  8. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
    Tom Cruise movies are still a lot of fun to watch. Somehow the Mission Impossible franchise is still stylish, clever, fun every time. 4/5
  9. Spectre
    A disappointing final film for Daniel Craig’s 007. It’s a weird movie. Not full camp, but can’t take it seriously. Worst use of Waltz. 3/5
  10. The Martian
    Over-the-top pop science flick. Matt Damon’s perfect as cocky scientist who we mostly view in solitude. Really funny too. 4/5
  11. Trumbo
    Opposite problem than Black Mass. Great story, really interesting biopic, but Bryan Cranston is the only one who appears to care. 3/5
  12. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
    Easily in Top 3 Star Wars movies. Dumb, retro plot structure, but Rey, Finn, and Poe are so great it hardly matters. Star Wars is back. 5/5

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

I’m glad I saw the second Avengers movie, but I also feel like I’ve seen my last Marvel comic-book-movie. Superhero fatigue is a very real thing for me; for most franchises there is an end in sight, yet the superhero movie genre is a wheel that seems to keep on spinning. Toby Maguire will be Spiderman for three movies, Andrew Garfield will be Spiderman for two movies, and somebody else will be Spiderman in the Avengers and countless movies beyond—the Spiderman wheels will keep on spinning, and it only ends when you hop off that ride. If Avengers: Age of Ultron  (AOU) is the last superhero ride I take, I’ll be okay with that.

See, AOU is a very middling experience. Its highs remind me why I see comic-book-movies. When a Marvel movie is good, it makes you laugh, it makes you want to cheer, things feel right, and you leave the movie theatre—not just satisfied—but ready to watch again. However, the lows of AOU remind me why I stayed home for the Captain America and Thor sequels. Yes, it’s partially superhero fatigue, but beyond that AOU gives me this feeling of “I’ve seen this before,” so the movie is fatiguing in its own right.

There are a few things that feel outright insulting, like how the second Avengers movie ends in the exact same way as the first. The Chitauri and the endless hordes of Ultron-bots presented the same amount of challenge in each of the film’s climaxes. It’s basically a videogame. There aren’t stakes per se, or any hint of tension, the waves of robots just keep coming and each of the Avengers will do what they do to endless hordes. Cap will throw his shield, Natasha will use her guns, Thor his hammer, and Ironman will use those damn hand-cannons that I can’t stand anymore (I swear, I’m so done with their high-pitched whines). Black Widow being turned into Bruce Banner’s love interest and basically, a tool to calm down the Hulk; I mean what happened there? In the last Avengers movie she had things under control and kicked ass—in this movie she says “Beep beep” out loud while driving a motorcycle, has to be rescued from a cage by Bruce Banner, and has a crisis about her inability to have children. All the while, I’m just never that excited by what’s going down in AOU.

The movie is called Age of Ultron, but if I had to guess, I think Ultron lives for all of two or three weeks tops—less an era and more like a flash-pan-reign. Ultron, while a screen-stealing villain, was never defined well enough for me too care that much about him. Stark and Banner invent him via montage, he’s born, and he’s immediately evil and I never, ever understood his motivations other than “I will not allow myself to be Tony Stark’s puppet.” He’s not that interesting, and in the end, not that frightening—he turns into a character who sees the Hulk coming to kill him and says “Oh, come on!” The same character that’s threating to wipe out humanity should not also be comic relief; it makes the threat feel empty.

In the end, I guess I can sum up my feelings like this: I’m glad I saw AOU, as one final Avengers romp, but if I had cut myself off after the first Avengers, I think I would have been a happier person. Instead I came along for one last ride in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and while it was fun at times, it was mostly bumpy.

The Interview (2014)

Feeling defeated after the Detroit Lions lost to the Dallas Cowboys, I watched “The Interview” (2014). It’s something I don’t feel amazing about. I had a rather morbid curiosity with the film after the media made it the center of a controversy superstorm. Nobody was expecting a masterpiece, so despite the hype, the film had a very low bar to reach. It’s a Seth Rogen/James Franco movie – that’s not to say it’s bad, it just means – well you know… You need to be ready for a certain kind of stupid.
In this regard, “The Interview” met my expectations of  being a big dumb movie. The characters are quickly defined as soon as they’re introduced. Rogen’s character has perhaps one of the least interesting character motivations… ever? He’s a entertainment-news producer who’s celebrating his 1000th episode. He bumps into Anders Holm from Workaholics (a show I dislike) who’s a producer for 60 Minutes. They throw insults at each other about their respective shows, and Rogen’s feelings are hurt. Now Rogen is motivated to make his tabloid show more newsworthy. It’s the kind of slow start to a comedy that’s hard to watch. And the slow stuff just keeps coming. For the first twenty minutes or so, I had lots of regrets about renting “The Interview.”
Things pick up, and I laughed at a lot of things in this movie. Mostly Lord of the Rings jokes, which I didn’t see coming. I’ll say another thing I didn’t see coming was racist humor? I’m sure it doesn’t come as a shock to many people that a bunch of white guys made jokes at the expense of Asians. I just honestly thought we were past the point when a movie could come out in 2014 where a white guy goes “Me so sorry.” It just feels so tired, on top of being wrong. I get that Rogen and Franco’s characters are idiots, but surely they can be funny idiots who aren’t also racist, right? Those types of jokes aside, well, funny things happen in “The Interview” and I don’t feel like doing them an injustice in text. Despite the frequent stupidity which I can’t stomach, there was plenty of stupidity that was right up my alley. Amazon’s reviewers have given “The Interview” a three-star rating out of five-stars. I couldn’t agree more. “The Interview” is the epitome of an “okay-to-average” movie which will forever be remembered because of a most bizarre controversy.

Office Space (1999)

I watched Office Space for the first time last night, and I thought I’d give my general impressions of the film. Though the category is called “movie reviews,” I don’t think these should be considered as such. What I’m doing, and what I think I’ve always done with my reviews, is try to express what I felt and took away from a particular work; not rating, ranking, or suggesting that something is or is not worth watching.

What I got out of Office Space was mostly a good time, an anti-establishment, rebellious blip of a movie that’s fun but not exactly deep. It plays out like an alternate history version of Fight Club (which came out the same year) wherein the nameless narrator finds peace at work, rather than group therapy sessions and street fights. Peter, hero of Office Space, is basically hypnotized into taking it easy at work, and finding the confidence to ask out Joanna the waitress (played by Jennifer Aniston). I had absolutely zero idea that hypnotherapy had anything to do with the core concept of Office Space, but it’s really just a means to get Peter to become rebellious through acting in his own interests. That he doesn’t come around to making this decision on his own, but rather through an unfortunate hypnotherapy accident, was something I expected to come up at some point in the movie. Peter’s office-disturbing antics, perfectly set to Geto Boys’ “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta” (1992), are richly therapeutic, and fun to watch, but all a result of hypnosis and not a personal decision – so while Peter’s fun to root for, he’s not a great character.

While I’m on the subject of not-great-characters, I want to talk about Joanna. Introduced as the pretty girl that steal’s Peter’s heart (but he can’t ask her out because he might be in a relationship already, with a woman who gives off a might-be-cheating vibe), Joanna never moves past the point of being an object for Peter to win. Joanna and Peter both hate their jobs, and they both like Kung-Fu movies, and that’s the extent to which they’re a good match. Joanna has dialogue for when Peter wins her over, when she’s talking to her male boss at the restaurant, when she’s defending herself from Peter who rudely yells at her for sleeping his boss (years ago), and for when she (of course) accepts Peter’s apology. Joanna and Peter’s relationship is otherwise fit into to the previously mentioned “Peter is a rebel” montage.

Office Space is better than decent, it has a great 90’s hip-hop soundtrack, and there are some really great laughs to be had (Diedrich Bader’s character is gold every brief second he’s on screen), but the core “I got hypnotized into becoming a likeable rebel” premise, and the incredibly shallow stapled-on romance plot leave the film short of what I’d consider a great comedy.