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

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

The Shape of Water (2017)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg

Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor

123 mins. Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language.

 

Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak) is a director known for his visual flair and attention to detail, but he has yet to cross the barrier into household name. His newest film, The Shape of Water, is his most deeply personal and intimate. The film is garnering some critical and festival praise right now, but is that warranted? This writer has been excited for the film since early this year, and I was overjoyed to catch a screening of it earlier this week.

The film stars Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky, Godzilla) as Elisa Esposito, a mute woman who works overnights as a janitor for the Occam Aerospace Research Center. She is perhaps too curious to discover that a strange new asset has been delivered to the facility one night, a dangerous new creature discovered in South America. As the creature is unable to communicate with sound, he quickly takes to Elisa’s use of sign language as well as the gifts of boiled eggs she brings him. When Elisa learns what the creature’s handler, Strickland (Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), plans to do with him, she hatches a plan to save the amphibious being and, along the way, discovers that her affection for the creature has grown exponentially.

I’m going to say it right now: The Shape of Water is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The plot is familiar enough in its simplest terms, but del Toro proves yet again that isn’t the story you tell but rather how you tell it that makes a masterpiece, and this one might be the director’s best work to date. The story he tells is one of love, attraction, repression, and loneliness using the central relationship between Elisa and the amphibious creature, played brilliantly by del Toro favorite Doug Jones (Hellboy II: The Golden Army, TV’s Star Trek: Discovery).

While Elisa and the Creature are the central relationship of the film, the secondary relationships give a nice contrast, showing Elisa’s friendship with chatty co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures, The Divergent Series: Allegiant) and the tenderness of her friendship with neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins, The Visitor, LBJ). The web is stretched further to show the way that Zelda behaves toward her husband and also how Giles, a closeted homosexual, pursues an attraction in an era where repression has made him self-conscious and very lonely. Then, there’s the polarized opposition of Strickland’s family dynamic and the way he treats his colleagues, specifically Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man, Arrival). The film’s near-constant unraveling of every relationship is fascinating and introspective in all the right ways.

The Shape of Water might be the best film I’ve seen this year. There’s a lot to unpack, and it feels like I need to see it again to fully connect to it, but the film, while a bit lengthy in its second act, is an exemplary look at love and attraction presented in its most unique fashion. This movie will challenge audiences and I hope you leave with as many questions as I did. That is, after all, the beauty in it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen The Shape of Water? What did you think? What’s your favorite relationship in the film? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 29 – Absentia (2011)

Director: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine, Morgan Peter Brown, Justin Gordon, James Flanagan, Scott Graham, Doug Jones

Screenplay: Mike Flanagan

87 mins. Rated R for language and some disturbing images.

 

I actually attended the premiere of Absentia back in 2011. It was the first premiere I’d been to and it was quite fun. I had a chance to meet director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Gerald’s Game) and actor Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, TV’s Star Trek: Discovery). I was very aware of Jones but it’s been very interesting to follow Flanagan’s career since then. The director has made some high-profile horror films and he continues to climb.

Absentia is about sisters Callie (Katie Parker, The Binding, The Last Alleycat) and Tricia (Courtney Bell, Before I Wake, The Puzzle). It’s been seven years since Tricia’s husband went missing, and now she’s ready to declare him dead in absentia. Callie, a recovering addict, has come to live with her and help her through the process. Tricia is having dreams and hallucinations of Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown, Contracted: Phase 2, Trip House) and where he might be if he were alive. Callie herself is seeing strange occurrences during her morning runs when, in a nearby tunnel, she sees a man calling himself Walter (Doug Jones) and asking for her son. Walter soon also disappears, and it’s clear that the tunnel holds a few secrets for both women.

Absentia has an interesting concept. Not many know about the emotional toll that declaring a missing person to be dead has on someone, and tying that to a horror film works very well. Flanagan’s film is light on actual scares, but his use of mood and interesting fleshed-out characters works well enough that the lack of scares don’t really matter in the through line of the narrative.

Flanagan’s lead actresses have an emotional core to them that ties the narrative together nicely, and the mysteries of the film don’t feel too easy except in hindsight. Absentia has time to breathe and focus on its characters and thankfully Parker and Bell hold the frame with their performances. Supporting actors Dave Levine (Namour, Chasing Happiness) and Justin Gordon (Gehenna: Where Death Lives, Fun Size Horror: Volume 2) do come across as slightly cliché and formulaic as the detectives working on the case, but this isn’t their story.

Absentia is proof that Kickstarter can do great things. The film is dark, ominous, foreboding, and accessible. I would have liked to have felt more dread as I understand it to be what the film was really wanting but missing. At least it is enjoyable enough as a horror film that relies on character action and doesn’t fall back on jump scares. It is an engaging and original early work for an up-and-coming director.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Mike Flanagan’s Oculus, click here.

For my review of Mike Flanagan’s Ouija: Origin of Evil, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Early Review] The Bye Bye Man (2017)

thebyebyeman2017

Director: Stacy Title

Cast: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway

Screenplay: Jonathan Penner

96 mins. Rated PG-13 for terror, horror violence, bloody images, sexual content, thematic elements, partial nudity, some language and teen drinking.

 

Welcome to 2017! I’ve got high hopes for this year!

thebyebyeman2017a

And they were trashed immediately after this film. Okay, just kidding, but wow, so bad…

Elliot (Douglas Smith, TV’s Big Love, Miss Sloane) is very happy in his new rental house with his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and childhood friend John (Lucien Laviscount, TV’s Scream Queens, Honeytrap). That is, until strange happenings begin in the home, all linked around a mysterious nightstand with markings on it, reading, “Don’t Say It Don’t Think It” repeatedly and a name, “The Bye Bye Man.” Naturally, upon learning the name of the creature, Elliot, Sasha, and John begin seeing things that aren’t there and Elliot finds himself followed by the mysterious entity (Doug Jones, Pan’s Labyrinth, Ouija: Origin of Evil) and his pet dog, haunted by the past and what he must do to stop it.

I was mildly irked through the first half of the film, which isn’t nearly that bad. There is a midpoint, however, when everything this film has spent time building completely unravels. I found myself practically getting up and yelling at the screen and all the stupid things these characters are doing. Why! Why would you do that? Why would you realize that everything you are seeing is a lie and still keep believing it? Why would that one girl do something so horrible and selfish for her own survival and then risk trying to save a family in a rollover right after explaining the Bye Bye Man’s abilities? Why, I say, Why!

As for the characters, they are more like caricatures. Elliot walks into clichés head-on, and Sasha and John are so poorly performed that it’s tough to believe anything. Sasha is seen as pretty dumb, and John is seen as kind of dickish. Why would I care about any of them? For supporting players, Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix, Pompeii) and Faye Dunaway (Chinatown, The Seduction of Dr. Fugazzi) are wholly misused in the film, given nothing to grasp onto for any semblance of a story.

thebyebyeman2017b

The saving grace of the film is Doug Jones’ terrific performance under all that makeup as the titular monster, but he can’t bring up a sinking ship. The Bye Bye Man is pretty dreadful, and it hurt me, especially after such a great year for horror. I should try and remind myself that this film was shot over a year ago and sat on the shelves until now, so I shouldn’t have hoped for much.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 11 – Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)

dontbeafraidofthedark2010a

Director: Troy Nixey

Cast: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson, Alan Dale, Garry McDonald, Julia Blake

Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins

99 mins. Rated R for violence and terror.

 

When an incredibly talented director decides to take on a remake, it is interesting. When he decides to take on a horror remake, it is even more so. When he decides to remake a 1970s made-for-television horror movie, it is about all I need to want more. That’s what Guillermo del Toro set his mind to for Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which tells the story of Kim (Katie Holmes, Batman Begins, The Giver) and Alex (Guy Pearce, Memento, The Rover) a couple who makes their life on flipping homes. When they get their hands on the home of Emerson Blackwood (Garry McDonald, TV’s Offspring, Moulin Rouge!), they cannot wait to spruce it up with their unique alterations. Alex’s daughter Sally (Bailee Madison, Just Go With It, Parental Guidance) harbors ill feelings against Kim for “replacing” her mother, and soon she discovers a basement inhabited by small creatures with ties to ancient and modern-day myth. Harris (Jack Thompson, Star Wars: Episode II-Attack of the Clones, Bonnie & Clyde) and Mrs. Underhill (Julia Blake, TV’s Bed of Roses, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), employees of Alex, do not want harm for the girl and know a lot more than they are letting on, but all that Alex is worried about is impressing Charles Jacoby (Alan Dale, TV’s Dominion, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), who has influence with a famous design and architecture magazine. When the creatures’ motives become clear, however, Sally knows that she must do whatever she can to stop them.

dontbeafraidofthedark2010b

This is all typical fare director and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak), so maybe that explains why he passed off directorial duties to newcomer Troy Nixey. Del Toro merely scripted the story with writer Matthew Robbins.

Now, this movie isn’t all that bad. It just isn’t all that good, either. It falls under the realm of simply existing for a while and then dropping off into obscurity, much like the film it is based on. I do like the idea of del Toro choosing a relatively unknown film to remake. I think there is far more potential to a project, with less expectations of comparison.

There isn’t anything wrong with the performances, except for Katie Holmes, who seems to have given up on even trying since making the biggest mistake of her career by passing on The Dark Knight.

Troy Nixey can handle the piece with some result to it, but ultimately the film feels like it is dragging. Part of that can be that the creatures resemble ones that Guillermo del Toro has dealt with before, and they feel boring. Even the effects are pretty good, but the creatures aren’t really anything new, and therein lies the fault. The whole film feels like we have seen it before, even for those of us who hadn’t heard of the obscure original film.

Would the film have been any different under the grasp of del Toro? I’d like to think so. I’m at the point with his work enough to the point that I will head to the theater just because his name is on the credits for a particular film. His influence seems to suggest better work than this.

dontbeafraidofthedark2010c

I feel like this film is one you can see if you want, but you don’t have to. Nobody is forcing you, and if they are, then their motives would be somewhat questionable.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑