Kyle’s Top Ten Films of 2017

 

Hey folks, another year has come and gone and here we sit, at the end of it, looking back on what was. 2017 had some truly great films and I’m going to count down my top ten today.

Just a couple notes before we get into all this:

  • These are my personal top ten films of the year from the many I have seen. I judge the films from my list in their success as a film in what they are trying to accomplish.
  • I haven’t seen all the movies released in 2017. If you read this list and find that something is missing, let me know, drop a comment, and start the conversation. Everyone loves a good recommendation.
  • Due to some of the heavy-hitters of Oscar season still on the way, this is a tentative list and it will change as more limited release films open up.

There, with all that out of the way, my Top Ten Films of 2017.

 

  1. Wind River

-I was not entirely excited about Wind River. That’s not to say anything wrong about the marketing, but I didn’t know anything about it and, living in an area with intense cold several months of the year, I wasn’t all that interested to see it in the summer. Thankfully, my other plans fell through and I ended up at the theater. Wind River is the powerful tale of a murder on an Native American Reservation and the unlikely duo who team up to solve the mystery. It’s been said a lot but this is Jeremy Renner’s best performance of his entire career. Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water, Sicario) jumps into the director’s chair this time around and crafts a tightly-paced and shocking look at these characters and their world. It’s emotional, exciting and thought-provoking in every stroke.

 

  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi is an incredible new addition to the Star Wars lore for the simple fact that it surprised me. I haven’t been genuinely surprised in a Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. Writer/Director Rian Johnson created a follow-up that subverts expectations while simultaneously honoring what has come before and driving forward on a new path. Not everyone loved it (someone once said that the people who hate Star Wars the most are the fans) but I enjoyed it for all the reasons that others didn’t love it. It’s exciting, emotional, and funny, and I cannot wait to see it again.

 

  1. Thor: Ragnarok

-With Thor: Ragnarok, Director Taika Waititi and Marvel Studios have given the public the closest thing to a new Flash Gordon that we are likely to get. A rollicking 80s road-trip style space movie with everyone’s favorite god of thunder and his pal the Incredible Hulk,  Ragnarok embodies the best of what the MCU has to offer, an incredibly fun and riveting blast of a film that stands on its own while contributing to a larger narrative. In Hela, we get an interesting villain with ties to Thor, and new characters like The Grandmaster, the Valkyrie, and Korg keep the thrills light and fluffy.

 

  1. Okja

Okja is one of the best films that Netflix has ever released. It is a strange tale, a unique tale, a funny-at-times tale, and a heartfelt tale. It’s the story of a girl and her superpig Okja. The company that created Okja , Mirando, has invested a lot of money in crafting a creature that is environmentally conscious with a minimal carbon footprint that tastes great, and now they plan on harvesting Okja to make billions for themselves, but Mija is not about to let the company take her friend. The film is one of the weirdest I’ve seen in a long time, but thanks to top-notch directing from Writer/Director Bong Joon-Ho from a great screenplay by him and Jon Ronson, Okja is a powerful ride from beginning to end.

 

  1. Dunkirk

Dunkirk is a film made for the theater experience. I was lucky that a colleague of mine got tickets to the 70mm/IMAX presentation and I was floored by the majesty of it all. The scenes in the air were breathtaking. The sequences on the beach were thrilling. The scenes on the boat were emotional. The whole film experience was astounding. Then, I watched it again when it hit home video. The film is still exhilarating. Even with the loss of the massive screen, this is a tightly-packed narrative that has so much going on but still feels so focused.

 

  1. Blade Runner 2049

-Who would’ve guessed that a sequel to a cult classic sci-fi thriller would be good? Blade Runner 2049 is even better than the original! How the hell did that happen? Director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) takes what works about the original film and crafts a companion piece that stands on its own and connects really nicely to the original film. Blade Runner and its sequel become two sides of the same coin, a breathtaking double-feature that is well worth the lengthy runtime. Harrison Ford returns as Deckard and joins Ryan Gosling’s Agent K, providing some of the best work in either of their careers.

 

  1. Lady Bird

-Greta Gerwig directs Lady Bird with such realism that it brought me back to a time in my youth when I was very much like Saoirse Ronan’s Christine. This incredible coming-of-age story feels like it’s the first of its kind in a world where dozens of similar films are released each year. The terrific chemistry between Christine and her mother is palpable and real. The film wanders through Lady Bird’s life as she encounters situations that many of us have been through in this interesting semi-autobiographical look at adolescence from a fantastic up-and-coming director.  I can’t wait to see what she does next.

 

  1. War for the Planet of the Apes

-How the hell did Planet of the Apes craft one of the best trilogies of all time? How does that happen? Matt Reeves takes on his second film in this franchise following Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and after having seen a few times, I can honestly say that War tops it. Andy Serkis is an actor who deserves performance credit for his role as the immensely complex Caesar, and he is matched on the battlefield by the chameleon that is Woody Harrelson, a man that can be joyful in one instant and terrifying in the next. Matt Reeves should be considered one of the hottest acts in Hollywood right now for his recent track record, and I look forward to his take on The Batman (if it ever does happen).

 

  1. The Big Sick

The Big Sick has been a critical darling since it was released in early 2017. The story, based on true events, is a dramedy based on the relationship of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily. The movie mixes emotion and comedy to present one of the best and truest representations of love I’ve ever seen. The performances in it are all fantastic, especially Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily’s parents. The Big Sick has a lot of award consideration and I’d be more than happy to see it take away some Oscars when the time comes as it hasn’t had a wide viewing outside of the general film community, and a few statues may help with that.

 

  1. The Shape of Water

-I hadn’t even heard of The Shape of Water at the beginning of 2017. In fact, it was only during an interview for The Bye Bye Man that Doug Jones even dropped he was working on a fish romance film with Guillermo del Toro that I even knew of the film’s existence but little else. Thankfully, late last year I was able to catch a screening for the film, and I just fell in love with it. I had always said that Pan’s Labyrinth would likely be del Toro’s masterpiece, but The Shape of Water is just so personal and lovely and strange and beautiful that I couldn’t get it out of my mind long after my initial viewing. Doug Jones, like Andy Serkis, won’t garner awards recognition for his work here and that’s a shame. Thankfully, Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Shannon turn in career-topping work here and the film is getting a lot of talk now. See this movie. It’s the best film of 2017.

 

Well, there you have it. These are my favorite films of the year. I look forward to #2018oscardeathrace to begin, and I may see a few favorites get knocked off as I continue catching up on what I missed in 2017, but overall, it was another great year for films. We’ll see you in 2018 (which is like, right now).

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 17 – Honeymoon (2014)

Director: Leigh Janiak

Cast: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown

Screenplay: Phil Graziadei, Leigh Janiak

87 mins. Rated R for disturbing bloody images, sexual content and language.

 

I’d been meaning to watch Honeymoon for some time now. Yes, it’s because I love Rose Leslie (The Last Witch Hunter, Morgan).

Bea (Leslie) and new husband Paul (Harry Treadaway, City of Ember, TV’s Mr. Mercedes) have rented a cabin for their honeymoon. But things quickly change direction when Paul finds Bea wandering outside one night. She becomes distant and strange in her reactions and she won’t tell Paul what’s going on. It becomes clear to Paul that something horrible happened to Bea, but what?

Honeymoon is a small little horror film, but it is an extremely effective one. Leslie and Treadaway have amazing chemistry that raises the tension very well and the finale is unexpected and odd but very unnerving. It all seems a little easy to put together at times, but Honeymoon and its director Leigh Janiak aren’t hiding anything. It just feels like there’s more to it.

Honeymoon is good fun, and it’s creepy, strange, unexplained, and memorable. But best of all, it’s on Netflix. This is worth it next time you find yourself wandering the Netflix pages looking for something, anything, worth watching. I know you do it, we all do.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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The Age of Spin: Dave Chappelle Live at the Hollywood Palladium (2017)

Director: Stan Lathan

Cast: Dave Chappelle, Morgan Freeman

Screenplay: Dave Chappelle

67 mins. Rated TV-MA.

 

Dave Chappelle (Half Baked, Chi-Raq) made his triumphant return to the stand-up special this year with two shows, the first of which we will talk about today. The Age of Spin is Dave Chappelle’s show at the Hollywood Palladium and it is a doozy. Chappelle warns his audience early by telling them to “man the fuck up” because this is Chappelle at his most unrestrained. During his time on stage, Chappelle chronicles his thoughts on LA Cops, his current standing in the black community, his feud/not feud with Kevin Hart, and his examination on Bill Cosby.

The strongest part of the show is Chappelle promising to tell his audience about all four times he met O.J. Simpson. And he delivers on that promise well. The four meetings each set up another piece of the layered puzzle of Chappelle’s life. This is a comedian who is offensive, unforgiving, and most of all, absolutely hilarious.

And yet, the entire show feels like a conversation with an old friend you haven’t seen in some time. You invite him into your home (thanks to Netflix) and he catches you up on what he’s been doing as of late. It’s like grabbing a cup of coffee with a pal. Okay, maybe a smoke and a drink.

The Age of Spin is an incredible return for Dave Chappelle. He is unapologetic and his audience is all the more thankful for it. But he is respectful in his craft, pausing at the end of his show to ask for a moment of silence for the loss of Garry Shandling which occurred the same week as the taping of the special.  This is one stand-up special that stays with you.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[Early Review] Okja (2017)

Director: Bong Joon-Ho

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Seo-Hyun Ahn, Byun Hee-Bong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yun Je-Mun, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Choi Woo-Shik, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal

Screenplay: Bong Joon-Ho, Jon Ronson

118 mins. Not Rated.

 

Well, have I got a movie for you today!

Okja is the story of a young girl named Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn, The Housemaid, Monster) who lives on a farm in South Korea with her grandfather and a unique animal, a superpig named Okja. For ten years, Mija and her grandfather have been raising Okja to win a competition against other superpig farmers around the country. Mija is overjoyed when the judge, TV personality and zoologist Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko, Life) selects Okja as the winner. But when she learns of what will happen to Okja upon returning to the United States and to its true owner, Mirando Corporation, she sets out to free him and, along the way, gains help from Jay (Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine, Swiss Army Man) and his ALF (Animal Liberation Front) team. Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin, War Machine), the CEO of Mirando, will stop at nothing to use Okja for her own greedy plans in this strange and unique new film from Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer, Mother).

Now, I get it. Reading that synopsis wouldn’t exactly hype me for a film, and in lesser hands, I’d believe this film to be destined for failure. But with this director, I became more and more excited to see it.

And Okja has a lot going for it. With Bong Joon-Ho’s direction  and powerful writing, the cardinal message shines clear but with enough layers to make the discussion following an important one. The use of the CG superpig allows enough separation from reality for the film to make thought-provoking statements and ask serious questions behind the guise of a science-fiction adventure.

The performances here aid in crafting the unique vision presented, specifically Tilda Swinton as Lucy Mirando, a villain with motivations and an understandable approach but one that doesn’t always have the right methods to solve her problems. Then, there’s the standout work from Jake Gyllenhaal, who steals every scene as the over-the-top Wilcox, an unhinged failing TV personality who lost his fanbase years ago. Paul Dano and Giancarlo Esposito (The Usual Suspects, The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials) also turn in great work, the latter portraying Frank Dawson, Lucy’s right-hand man, but the work from Seo-Hyun Ahn as Mija rises up to match her fellow performers. The young actress’s ability to play to a CG superpig and hold her own in scenes with much more accomplished actors is strong in its own right.

It frustrates me that a film like Okja was booed at Cannes for having the Netflix banner in front of its opening titles. The streaming giant has more than proved itself in recent years, and Okja stands among the best of their original films. I’ll say it simple: it’s the best film I’ve seen this year so far. This is a film that balances humor with deep political satire and genuinely heartbreaking moments. I don’t care if this film changes your mind on its subject matter. It didn’t completely change mine, but I’m happy for the interesting viewpoint it offers. This is one that will stick with you. It will make you believe in a superpig.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Fan Makes Unfortunate Events Trailer Better Than Entire 2004 Film!

 aseriesofunfortunateevents2016a

So a new trailer went viral for Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, a new series based on the books by Lemony Snicket. As it turns out, this is merely a fan-made trailer and not an official trailer for upcoming Netflix Original Series.

I was sad to discover that this was fan made. I enjoyed the book series up until I saw the truly abysmal 2004 misfire starring Jim Carrey and featuring one of the only performances from Meryl Streep not to be Oscar nominated.

I’ve let a link to the trailer here, so check it out and let me know what you think? Are you excited to see Count Olaf back to his ways? Will you be binging A Series of Unfortunate Events?

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

The Interview (2014)

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Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

Cast: Seth Rogen, James Franco

Screenplay: Dan Sterling

112 mins. Rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence.

 

Last year, a film was made, one that almost never saw the light of day thanks to terrorism. In the course of a few days, buzz around The Interview skyrocketed after a threats were made to Sony concerning its release. Theaters around the country pulled the film and refused to show it. It was a sad day to be an artist in America. It didn’t matter what kind of art was pulled, the fact that we were afraid to express ourselves showed more weakness than I could have imagined.

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But then, Sony came to the rescue. They released the film on online platforms. You can’t bomb online platforms (well, the danger was still there). Youtube released it. Netflix released it. Then, stores put it on shelves and we proved to the evils of the world that we are not going to stand for it (cue the inspirational battle hymn). Well, anyway, that happened, and it helped cement The Interview in the annals of American film history, but there was still one unanswered question: was the film any good?

In The Interview, the new comedy from directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (This is the End), we follow Rogen as Aaron Rapaport, producer for the talk show Skylark Tonight, featuring his friend Dave Skylark (James Franco, 127 Hours, True Story). The show is a fledgling one, more of a witch hunt show searching for shock and awe rather than inspirational or interesting television. That is, until they get an interview with Kim Jong-Un after finding that the dictator is a fan of the show. The two are then enlisted by the US government to assassinate the world leader during the interview and save countless lives (that’s right, it does bleed controversy).

The performances by the two leads are goofy and a little stupid, the cinematography looks cheap and a little stupid, and the pacing is way off. It’s a little stupid. With all that, the film does have its charms, but I do struggle to remember a moment where I laughed out loud. There were a few “that’s funny” moments but no guffaws. I wanted some damn guffaws.

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All in all, does The Interview deserve to be remembered the way it will be? Probably not. I found it to be a goofy somewhat comedic romp with little true substance outside its controversy.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 95th Birthday!] Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

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Director: John S. Robertson

Cast: John Barrymore, Martha Mansfield, Charles Lane, Nita Naldi

Screenplay: Clara Beranger

49 mins. Not Rated.

 

Today we are going to step way back in time to a silent film that is now a part of public domain as it celebrates 95 years of viewings. That film is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one of dozens of adaptations from the original story by Robert Louis Stevenson. This version stars John Barrymore (Grand Hotel, Twentieth Century) in the iconic role as Dr. Henry Jekyll, a scientist who experiments with bringing forth a new personality that dwells within him, a monster of a man named Edward Hyde.

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There are a few versions of this silent picture floating around the world of public domain, but I prefer the one that resides on Netflix. It is a slightly longer version of the tale, but the pictures looks as crisp as it can and the horrific transformation between Jekyll’s dual personalities shine through.

Like many of the early silent pictures, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sticks to the crib-notes and tells the basic story so I can’t really tell you that the screenplay is unforgettable, but the story does provide elements reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which has often been compared to Stevenson’s story in the past.

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The beauty of this 1920 classic is in its simplicity. It tells the tale of a man who wants what many of us want: to see another side of ourselves. Its morality play works well under the guidance of director John S. Robertson and lead Barrymore, and it has indeed stood the test of time (a lot more that its 1951 sequel The Son of Dr. Jekyll, but we’ll get to that another time).

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Netflix Jumps on the Historical Epic Bandwagon with Marco Polo; Trailer Out Now!

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Netflix is becoming one of those dynasties in entertainment; they create amazing original programming, they house thousands of good films and a lot more no-so-good, but forget those for the moment.

When they began original programming with series like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Netflix immediately proved that they were worth the monthly price of membership. Now, Netflix is taking on the epic series with Marco Polo, stylized like Vikings and Game of Thrones in their sand and sword, blood and breasts approach to high action.

The trailer is below, and looks pretty kick-ass! I’m excited to have a pass to see something like this just for having a service I already use a ton. Let me know what you think of Marco Polo’s trailer and are you excited for December 12?

31 Days of Horror: Day 10 – John Dies at the End (2012)

johndiesattheend2012

Director: Don Coscarelli

Cast: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck

Screenplay: Don Coscarelli

99 mins. Rated R for bloody violence and gore, nudity, language and drug content.

 

I didn’t watch anything of Don Coscarelli’s films at first release. He displays such vivid enthusiasm on the screen that his movies cannot be ignored forever. Thanks to Netflix, I found a copy of Phantasm to experience. Thanks to a fellow reviewer, I was able to view Bubba Ho-Tep. Thanks to the bargain bin, I have now been given access to John Dies at the End, a quirky and rather disappointing film based on the novel of the same name.

The story is extremely convoluted but it comes down to this: a new drug has the potential to take its users into other dimensions and across massive expanses of time, but not everyone who uses is entirely normal after the experience. The story follows John (Rob Mayes, Enough Said, A Golden Christmas 3) and Dave (Chase Williamson, Sparks, The Guest) as they attempt  to discover the source as Dave recounts the tale in a restaurant with audience Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti, Sideways, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) listening intently.

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Now, I like a lot of the supporting work here. Giamatti gives us a more captivated audience to connect to, but ultimately is unused, as is Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water) as Dr. Albert Marconi, a paranormal power-player whom John and Dave look up to.

I had to spend a lot of time calculating exactly what turned me off of this film, and I came to the conclusion that it suffers for the very reasons that Coscarelli’s other work, Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep, work so well. That strangeness, that quality of oddity turned me away from this. It didn’t start like that, I happened to find the film’s opening, involving an exorcism, a doorknob that transforms into a penis, and a demon made up entirely of frozen meats, quite entertaining. The plot just sort of unravels as it is trying to build.

That’s a lot of what makes up John Dies at the End: trying. I can see that it is trying to be strange and yet appealing. I can see that it is trying to be comedic. I can see that it is trying to shock. It is, and yet none of that matters between a weak script and lead performers that can’t carry the film.

Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes are unknowns, and are likely to stay that way, neither one of them seems to be able to handle a scene and truly hold an audience in the way that Dave tries to hold Blondestone.

Coscarelli was quoted that John Dies at the End was one of the greatest titles in motion picture history, and that can be kind of true, although SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT allowing John’s character to live makes it come off as less inspired. Making the decision to kill off the character you promised to kill off would allow you some more creative freedom to embrace the strange, because it allows the audience to be less focused on the ending and more on the journey, which is oftentimes a tough sell. END SPOILERS.

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In the end, I can openly appreciate the attempt that this film is making. I can, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that I was checking my watch less than fifteen minutes in, and that doesn’t make for a wonderful last eighty minutes or so. Don’t rate Coscarelli on this bummer.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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