“You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had very fine...
ZACK CLOPTON'S 2017 FILM RETROSPECTIVES!!!
...on both sides.”
We went into 2017 honestly feeling like the world could end at any minute. It's an anxiety that hasn't truly subsided and has occasionally flared up, whenever our dotard of a president would threaten nuclear war. It was a year largely characterized by natural disasters, sexual abuse, and the rich robbing the poor. But there was also protest and some justice. We may be living in a new era of Trumpian dumbness and flagrant corruption but at least some of us are fighting back.
None of this has anything to do with the focus of this blog: Movies. You'll have to excuse me, I get philosophical at the end of the year. As far as cinema goes, 2017 was a pretty good year. Not for me. I completed fewer Director Report Cards than last year, blogged less in general, and struggled to keep up with my monthly expectations.
But when the movie theaters were packed with such a variety of interesting and exciting films, it's hard to be too upset. I mean, shit, even the big budget blockbusters were really good this year. All together, I saw 81 films, up by all of 1 from last year. So without further ado, here is a complete list of all the new releases I saw in 2017.
1. The Lure
A hugely original horror take on the mermaid premise that links budding sexual desires to a need to eat people. Changing the sirens song to pop music produces uniformly great results. Marat Mazurek brings an undercurrent of sadness and rawness. Michalina Olszanska is wide-eyed and instantly likable. Director Smoczynska maintains the tragedy of her fairy tale inspiration.
2. Ingrid Goes West
As a satire of Instagram, a website I don't use, I'm not sure how successful this is. Mostly, I related to Ingrid. Her loneliness, her desperation, her desire to appear genuine, her fear of being discovered as a fraud, her hatred of Taylor's frat-bro brother. Frequently hilarious but also penetratingly sad, this is an incredibly empathetic film about needing to be loved.
Gorgeous visuals are paired with a touching story. The film expresses the importance of the autumn festivals, how they connect us with our past. The music is great. Many of the characters, like little Dante, are lovable while the humor happily veers towards the surreal. A plot twist concerning a major character is easy to guess but, otherwise, this is another win from Pixar.
4. Boys in the Trees
Ultimately, a story about teenage boys stumbling towards adulthood that uses its fantasy world as a metaphor for growing up, where monsters represent adolescent fears. The Halloween setting is heavy on pumpkins, costumes, candy, and pranks. Bolstering the film are two amazing performances, from a subtle Toby Wallace and deeply sad Gulliver McGrath.
5. Atomic Blonde
From start to finish, pure bad-assery, as every new action scene somehow tops the previous one. Charlize Theron is magnetic as an uncompromising heroine, while the supporting cast is full of likable performers. The plot keeps you guessing while staying out of the action's way. The Cold War setting and new wave soundtrack are totally up my alley.
6. Baby Driver
Maybe the first carsploitation/crime/musical in cinematic history. Ansel Elgort matches his fittingly baby-faced appearance with a youthful energy and a tough, resourceful exterior. Just like its speedy protagonist, “Baby Driver” moves like quickly, building itself around a series of increasingly elaborate vehicular pursuits. Aside from a slightly weak ending, this is aces.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
James Gunn is keeping Marvel weird. His odd ball humor and wild visual easily elevates the film. The cast is separated but the script never feels off-balance. There's a lot of personal stuff about deadbeat dads and loneliness in here that I really responded too. And, of course, the dialogue is hilarious, the action scenes are a blast, and the in-jokes are fantastic.
8. Super Dark Times
I'm a little younger than these characters but it's still obvious how accurate this depiction of being a teenager in the mid-nineties is. Moreover, the film captures the intimate details of teenage boy friendships, prickly and overly vulgar. The direction is moody, especially in several ominous nightmare scenes. The paranoia and tension builds to an unnerving conclusion.
9. Lady MacBeth
Genuinely erotic and deeply disturbing, the film tells the tale of a woman forced to be ruthless but a hateful world. The chilly direction and sparse music emphasizes the protagonist's isolation, the audience sympathizing with her despite her horrible actions. A spellbinding performance from Florence Pugh cements this as a powerful and meaningful thriller and pitch black character study.
10. War for the Planet of the Apes
A summer blockbuster that is thematically complex and emotionally bracing. Andy Serkis' Caesar continues to be deeply thoughtful. The film delves deeply into the cost of vengeance. Woody Harrelson is terrifying. Yet the film goes out of it ways to paint parallels between McCullough and Caesar. Director Matt Reeves seems eager to build deeper references into the film.
11. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Maybe a bit early to call this the best “Spider-Man” movie but this captures the tone you'll want from a modern version, by mixing teenage slice-of-life stories, hilarious and sarcastic humor, with perfectly executed superhero action. The cast is top-notch, with Holland and Keaton shining especially. It integrates the character with the wider Marvel universe without overdoing it.
12. Get Out
Letting horror grow out of sociological anxieties, “Get Out” is a boldly political genre film that builds on the awkwardness of being black in a white community. Effective thriller elements eventually descend into full-blown surreal horror. The cathartic ending has the repressed getting righteous revenge on their tormentors.
13. I Don't Feel At Home in This World Anymore
Essentially two movies in one and I loved both. It begins as the most hilarious, quirky, light-hearted vigilante story you've ever seen. Near the end, it takes a hard right turn into ultraviolent crime thriller, a change that shouldn't work but does so amazingly. At the center is Melanie Lynskey's hilarious frustration, Elijah Woods at his most lovably oddball, and a totally sincere anti-asshole message.
THREE AND A HALF STARS:
14. Your Name.
Beginning as a really cute romantic comedy, full of funny and sweet moments, that transforms into a powerful meditation on loss, time, tradition and the power of love midway through. Beautifully animated, especially during a key moment that visually illustrates the characters' connection. This is by far Shinkai's most accessible and personable film yet.
15. The Lego Batman Movie
The perfect cast guarantees non-stop laughs, even if the manic pace threatens to burn the audience out. The film embraces Batman's long history, throwing in his goofier villains and attributes. Not to mention the massive crossover that not even the most crazed fanboy might have imagined. The script even explores the loneliness at the root of Bruce's personality, albeit in a sarcastic manner.
16. John Wick: Chapter 2
The action sequences are beautifully choreographed, balletic in their violence. The random mythology references and the building on the first movie's world add depth to this elaborate shoot-em-up. There's also the sense that John is self-destructing, that Keanu's stotic anti-hero is slipping deeper into misery. Which is quite an achievement for what is otherwise pure ownage.
17. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Yorgos Lanthimos' directorial style – already cold, mannered and off-putting – is perfectly suited to horror. An ominous air hangs over it, which only grows more unsettling as the story becomes stranger. The film progresses with the look and feel of a nightmare. The results is a motion picture that is both tragic and funny in the darkest, weirdest way.
Grisly horror/comedy that is also surprising cute, it approaches its Frankenstein'd premise in a novel way. The three-in-one protagonist is brought to life by a lovable, hilarious trio of actresses. The story grows crazier as it goes on, building towards more outrageous acts of hyper-violent action. I wasn't a big fan of a late film plot twist but found this one really likable, overall.
Beginning as a goofy comedy about a screw-up and the kaiju she controls, the film evolves into a fascinating story about toxic masculinity and self-worth. Hathaway is heartbreakingly human while Sudeikis is a terrifyingly commonplace (but still sympathetic) villain. Even during the more serious moments, the quirky humor and inventive sci-fi spirit is maintained.
20. Thor: Ragnarok
Extends the impish humor of the “Thor” films to its natural conclusion. The cast is in top form and all the new additions are highly lovable. The synth score is fantastic. Cate Blanchette is utterly enchanting as the villain and I honestly wish the film had more of her. Leaping between the different locations does make the story feel a little scattered at times.
Part environmental allegory, characterized by free-floating gender anxiety and religious/cultural symbolism. This stuff is obvious but still powerfully executed. It's also an absurdist nightmare, about personal space being invaded, that ratchets from darkly funny to deeply disturbing. Mostly, I love that Afronosky tricked so many J-Law fans into seeing something this confrontational.
22. Brawl in Cell Block 99
Vince Vaughn is surprisingly convincing as one of the year's most determined bad-asses. The film is a contrast between slow-paced moments of simmering atmosphere and extremely harsh, bone-breaking action scenes. This climaxes in a massively gory final act, the titular brawl. It's too long, and perhaps too stoic on the whole, but extremely satisfying in its own way.
23. Blade Runner 2049
Expands upon the original's world and explores its themes, of what it truly means to be human, in a rich way. The spectacle is visually impressive and the action scenes are tight. The cast, including one of my favorite villains of the year, is fantastic. This is big budget, thoughtful sci-fi with heart and a sense of wonder. It's probably longer than it needed to be though.
24. Cult of Chucky
Don Mancini is insistent on trying new things. This is the most psychological and twisty entry in the franchise yet. The snowy asylum setting is gorgeous. The direction shows an obvious debt to DePalma, bringing a grace and beauty to the murder scenes. He brings back a lot of humor, as Chucky remains a total hoot. It's also peppered with in-jokes and call-backs to previous films.
25. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Shows the series' heroes struggling with their legacies. The returning cast grow while some notable new names are introduced. Rian Johnson returns some of the weirdness to “Star Wars.” Has several moments designed to make viewers cheers, based on skillfully engineered action theatrics. Yet my favorite moments are designed to misdirect expectations.
One of the most consistent horror anthologies we've gotten recently. “The Box” is a chilling exercise in existential horror. “The Birthday Cake” is an amusing black comedy with anxiety inducing direction. “Don't Fall” is a spooky creature feature with clever effects. “Her Only Living Son,” meanwhile, may be one of the best films I've seen about being raised by a single mom.
27. Creep 2
Brilliantly gives Mark Duplass' (still massively entertaining and fascinatingly weird) titular creep a worthy adversary, in the form of the lovable Sara. Maintains the original's unpredictability and double-downs on the humor, which includes a deconstruction on the jump scare. This would've been a four star flick if it had ended two minutes earlier, as the brief epilogue is unnecessary.
28. Better Watch Out
At first, appears to be one type of horror movie. It's well done but turns out to be an elaborate misdirect for where “Better Watch Out” is actually going. In addition to perhaps saying some things about male entitlement, the movie becomes an effective battle of wills. One death scene involves probably the most morbid homage to “Home Alone” you'll ever see.
Frames coming-of-age angst – growing up, discovering sex, sibling rivalry – as gruesome body horror. The film is intimately concerned with the sweaty, up-close, nasty details of the human body. The visceral quality of the gore contrasts intensely with the girl's previously meat-free world. Buoying the film are excellent performances from Garance Marillier and Ella Rumpf.
30. Brigsby Bear
Surprisingly sincere, this works best when commenting on how young people relate to life through pop culture. The oddball, fish-out-of-water story is elevated by a lovable cast and a lot of heart. It's frequently really funny too. I do wish we spent a little more time in James' artificial world at the beginning, as I loved everything about how it looked and felt.
Obviously the best of the “Wolverine” films, the slower pace and more character-based script mark this as a clearly personal film. It also creates a slightly overlong run time. Still the brutally violent action scenes, elegiac tone, western references, and focus on the central trio create an excellently acted, thoughtful, absorbing, even occasionally tear jerking film.
32. Kong: Skull Island
Steeped in the Vietnam era, “Skull Island” directly concerns itself with the weight of war. Deep down, it's a big B-movie. The filmmakers make sure Kong has a personality. The other creatures are equally cool, leading to several notable monster fights. The script could've used some ironing and the excellent cast is mostly underserved. That post-credit scene did get me pumped.
33. The Devil's Candy
Who would've expect a heavy metal/satanic panic-themed serial killer story to feature one of the best depictions of a father/daughter relationship I've ever seen? The horror sequences are tensely directed and unnerving. The cast includes a sympathetic but still terrifying killer and a man struggling with artistic anxiety. Not all the subplots pay off but this was still a pleasant surprise.
I love the floppy-earred hippo-pig and the affection our young heroine feels for her. Joon-ho Bong's latest is a rather shaggy satire, depicting a girl who just wants to take her friend home, torn between corporate evil and self-interested protesters. There's an amazing chase scene, some grotesque overacting, and cute animal antics existing alongside horrifying sequences.
35. Wonder Woman
Exhibits growing pains typical of the first entry in a series. The last act overloads on CGI destruction. The action scenes are a little heavy on the slow-mo. Otherwise, the film captures the spirit of the character, understanding Wonder Woman is both a warrior and someone driven by compassion. An aces supporting cast and strong score makes this easily the best DCEU film yet.
A really funny, extremely dark comedy about grief and the anxiety of bringing life into the world.
Star/writer/director Alice Lowe balances the funny scenes with its overtly horrific ones. Throughout, she's dryly hilarious but her convictions are impressive and intense. Ruth's interactions with her potential victims are often awkwardly hilarious.
37. The Transfiguration
Sets out to be the most grounded vampire movie possible and largely succeeds. The naturalistic direction and pacing is effective. The young cast is very talented, especially Eric Ruffin as a young sociopath struggling with his unnatural urges. The film happily engages with the subtext – social and sexual – of the vampire. This kind of low-key horror won't be for most but I dug it.
More faithful to the book's spirit than its actual plot, this is a surprisingly fun movie. The scares go for the throat but are balanced with heart and humor. Helping matters greatly is an exceptional cast, Finn Wolfhard and Sophia Lillis being the stand-outs. Bill Skarsgard is suitably creepy but not as good as Tim Curry. The film left me elated but excited, creeped out but comfortable.
39. The Babysitter
Raunchy and a little too self-aware, this horror/comedy succeeds when showing off a surprising sweet side. I like that the killers alternatively attack and encourage the young hero. It's enjoyable watching the kid come into his own. The best gags are wacky digressions from what you'd expected. The cast is solid, especially Samara Weaving, who gives a break-out performance.
Visceral anger boils out of every frame of this feminist reclaiming of the rape/revenge genre. The story is rather thin actually, little more than a collection of tensely shot confrontations. However, an overriding mood of nervous tension holds the film together. Along with a star-making performance from Francesca Eastwood, who is startling and powerful.
41. Gerald's Game
Finds a clever way to make a largely internal novel external. Carla Gugino is so compelling that I wish the inevitable flashback didn't leave her behind. The basic premise is nerve-wrecking enough and leads to a jaw dropping moment of visceral gore. Disappointingly, the film also maintains the book's exposition heavy epilogue, which tarnish an otherwise very good adaptation.
Grisly character study about the weight of guilt, manifesting as a decaying house, flesh-eating rats, and horribly disfigured ghosts. Thomas Jane gives a career-best performance as the weary voice narrating the story. I dug the rustic period setting and slow burn atmosphere. It's a bit too long, thanks to an extended denouncement, and features one unnecessary subplot.
43. The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography
Gives the audience a no-frills impression of Elsa Dorfman. She talks a lot about her background. In older interviews, she talks openly about her work. By clinging to an bygone piece of technology, it also shows how much technology has changed. This feels like a minor work from Morris but is a pleasant movie that gives us insight into the life of an interesting artistic voice.
44. The Belko Experiment
Mostly concerned with saying some grim things about human nature. The way the employees coldly decide to execute each other is chilling. The intense carnage almost takes on a comedic element. Yet, whenever things get too funny, we snap back with more cruelty. That constant back-and-forth between dark comedy and deeply unnerving violence create a seasawing tone.
As a movie, it's solid. The different story threads are juggled nicely, despite an anticlimactic ending. The theme of trauma is potent and the animal symbolism isn't too on the nose. The shift from thriller to horror/supervillain story is handled nicely. As a showcase for James MacAvoy, it's even better, as he conveys several character with only his voice and body language.
46. Alien: Covenant
Sturdier than “Prometheus,” which the sequel actively apologizes for, but not as ambitious. The body horror is fantastic, the monster attacks are extremely well done, and the last act is very tense. But it's not satisfying as a definitive origin of the Xenomorph and includes a predictable twist. In many ways, it feels like an entertaining but shallow retread of previous “Alien” films.
47. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
There are visually gorgeous sequences: The opening - I would watch a whole movie like that - and Valerian's run through the layers of the satellite. The entire world is fascinating. The alien designs are beautiful. But the two leads are pretty terrible and their romance is utterly cringe-worthy. The plot is very episodic, suggesting this was adapted from multiple stand-alone stories.
48. Dig Two Graves
The Southern Gothic atmosphere goes a long way, leading to several creepy moments. The performances, especially Ted Levine's regret-strewn starring turn, are very good. The way the story leaps around in time is interesting. Ultimately, the slightly convoluted plot – which teases a supernatural element that is then discarded – drags the film down a bit.
49. The Void
Obviously beholden to John Carpenter and other eighties horror classics, this is a grim picture about overcoming loss. The hideous monsters are impressively creepy and brought to life with good old fashion latex and rubber. I wish the screenplay and characters had as much meat on their bones as the Lovecraftian abominations do.
50. Justice League
It's fine. Entertaining even! The action beats are good. Cast is solid, with Ezra Miller emerging as the break-out star. The first act is bumpy but, once the League starts kicking ass together, I was sold. The last act features several satisfying moments. It's really obvious which moments are Synder's and which are Whedon's. A lot of stuff was clearly cut out, rewritten or rearranged.
51. Dave Made a Maze
Worth seeing just for the crazy production values. The sets, traps, and creatures show off an amazing imagination. This leads to some really fun sequence, like the bit with the paper bag puppets or blood being replaced with confetti. Sadly, the script doesn't match up with the visual design's creativity, as the story is thin and characters are broad caricatures.
52. A Ghost Story
Follows its premise – a ghost story told from the ghost's perspective – to some unexpected places.
To start, the film is very still and almost unbearably sluggish. It's going somewhere though and leads to a visually philosophical last act. If nothing else, a white sheet has never been this expressive before.
53. Marjorie Prime
Has some interesting things to say about memory and grief. The near future, sci-fi technology is portrayed in a plausible way. The cast is very strong, especially Jon Hamm's performance as a hologram. However, the script leaps around in time too much, causing us to loose the story's emotional mileage.
54. The Mummy
Met my expectations as a middling popcorn muncher with some minor spooky touches. Sofia Boutella is good. Mr. Hyde is goofy but fun. I did not care about Cruise's love interest, which is sadly what the emotional crux depends on. Action is a little shaky but generally easy to follow. I was digging it until the last 15 minutes, when the film goes to absurd lengths to set up a sequel.
Dour drama about grief, responsibility, and revenge. Schwarzenegger's performance is the primary reason to see this. Arnold is a raw nerve, intensely sympathetic one moment, glowering and frightening the next. I understand why the movie told the air traffic controller's story but wish it could've focused on Arnold exclusively. The ending simplifies the themes a bit too much.
TWO AND A HALF STARS:
56. Blood Money
You can see Lucky McKee trying to put his mark on the undistinguished material, mostly in the fleshed out female anti-hero driving the story. Add a quick pace, a sarcastic John Cusack, and some brutal violence, and you've got a movie that almost rises above its inglorious roots. The premise is still derivative and there's far too much bickering in the woods.
Frequently pulled between a very cheesy type of sentimentality and rather crude streak of broad comedy. And then there's that furry business. The cast is wildly overqualified. Still, the film is way too weird not to be a little bit charming. I mean, shit, where else are you going to see a Christmas movie about Bigfoot and furries?
58. Monster Trucks
Creech, the meme-tastic monstrosity in “Monster Trucks,” is genuinely cute. The film is thankfully free of the shrill humor that characterizes too many kid's flicks. Some of the action scenes are even cool! The script is unquestionably inane, the movie's too long, and Lucas Till isn't the most engaging lead. However, it's clear the filmmakers were trying to create something neat.
59. Free Fire
Feature length Mexican stand-off and a dark comedy about how many bullets the human body can adsorb. The cast is colorful, as are their varied accents, but the characters are ultimately underwritten. The music is clever and the direction is dynamic. However, it's all a distraction from a film that is build entirely around loud confrontations, one gun fight after another.
Starts with smarmy narration and asshole characters, before escalating into a series of brutal, almost cartoonish action scenes. However, the endless carnage becomes monotonous before the end. Eventually, you do start to warm towards the protagonists, especially during their irrelevant digressions about pop culture. I liked the use of music too.
61. We are the Flesh
Is there any point to the film's in-your-face sexual violence beyond pure provocation? I'm not sure. Hedonism is a main theme. The messed-up family kind of appeal to me. The performances help sell this unusual dynamic, especially Maria Evoli. Visually interesting, there's a strong color palette. I'm not entirely sure what to think but “We are the Flesh” is, if nothing else, interesting.
62. Cars 3
Faith praise incoming: “Cars 3” might be the best of the “Cars” movies! The themes of aging, obsolescence, and easing into retirement with dignity are interesting. The relationship between Lightning and Cruz is cute and develops in a satisfying way. There's still some wacky broadness but the irritating elements – like Mater and the country-bumpkins – are reeled way back.
63. Killing Gunther
Watching the cartoonish characters being constantly outmatched by their target. The cast is fairly likable. Schwarzenegger's performance as the asshole villain is especially amusing. The mockumentary angle was probably unnecessary, though it does lead to some clever action beats near the end. It's definitely way too broad at times and super minor but I liked it alright.
64. The Bad Batch
As a post-apocalyptic mood piece, this is fairly interesting. The muscle-freak cannibals, trailer trash crazies, and EDM cults are fascinatingly assembled. Yet the film is practically plotless and the characters are thinly written, their motivations and inner lives remaining mysterious and unexplored. I did like the soundtrack.
65. Hounds of Love
Dear Australia, while I enjoy your brutal, true crime inspired serial killer films as much as is possible, I object to their continued use of violent animal deaths for shock value. That moment, along with the script's repetitive nature, is what made me turn on this one a little. (Also, the lack of Kate Bush.) The cast is strong and the ending is earned but this one didn't quite work for me.
66. Happy Death Day
The audience never quite gets over the initial impression of the protagonist as a bitchy sorority girl, even though she gets better. Despite this, it's a fun little mystery, functioning like a whodunit for most of its run time... At least until the decoy ending that the momentum never quite recovers from. The kills are clever but the mayhem too often proves literally and figuratively bloodless.
67. Power Rangers
I admire how much time is spent developing the teens. There's a number of fun call-backs. Once the Rangers get in their Zords, this becomes entertaining. That doesn't happen until the last half-hour, thanks to a slow pace. Some of the changes made to the mythology are questionable. The direction and soundtrack are often obnoxious, leading to a middle-of-the-road reboot.
68. It Comes at Night
A post-apocalyptic, light-on-plot drama with light horror elements. A looming sense of dread floats over the entire film, climaxing in terrifying nightmares. This threatening atmosphere boils over into a senseless act of violence. Unfortunately, I didn't care about any of these characters. The film keeps its commitment to being vague up through its unsatisfying conclusion.
69. Ghost in the Shell
Visually, the film's cyberpunk world is quite cool. Those giant hologram advertisements go a long way. The action is decently organized, if a bit unmemorable. Scarlet Johannson has certainly cornered the market on vaguely inhuman action heroine roles. Yet the story is nothing special, featuring a lame villain reveal and lacking any of the source material's far-out ideas.
Frustrating. In some ways, it's the first reboot that feels like it respects the original. Yet it takes a while to circle back to this point. The bloody effects are vivid. Disappointingly, the duo leans on that most dreaded of cinematic styles – shaky-cam – a little too much as well. A big mid-film twist is bugged me a lot. Ultimately, it doesn't feel much like “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”
71. Lake Alice
Very much a slow burn, interchangeably tense and tedious. If you're expecting a gore-fest, you're going to be disappointed. Too often, the murderer sneaks up on the victim in an obvious way. The short run time and minimalist plot combines to make a movie that doesn't offer much. The choice of favoring suspense over gore is an admirable one. It doesn't quite work though.
72. The Untamed
Full disclosure: I think this one went over my head. The thread of sexual frustration running through the film is interesting and its eventual pay-off – tentacles are involved – is certainly unexpected. However, how the various threads connect and what it all means is beyond me. The distant atmosphere makes this one even harder to crack.
73. The Blackcoat's Daughter
Well, it's got a sustained atmosphere of moody dread. That's about the only thing this overly vague, difficult to follow, and ultimately hollow demonic thriller has going for it. The performances may be solid but the script is so undefined, you can't get a bead on any of the characters. A time shifting twist adds nothing to the story, which is otherwise extremely thin.
74. Welcome to Willits
Backwoods tweakers vs. aliens is a dynamite premise which, in a far too clever turn, is undone quickly. The shaggy slasher set-up is charming at first but soon degrades into a loose collection of scenes. The special effects are solid but under-utilized. The cast is decent but the script is directionless. In other words, it's another flawed attempt to expand a short to feature length.
Despite some minor moves forward, this is as exactly mediocre as the original. I found the cast to be likable and not just Ellen Page. It rolls along decently until it has to become a horror movie. Eventually leans on CGI too hard, while the scares are lame and worn out. There's a moral about self-forgiveness that couldn't be more unearned.
76. Beauty and the Beast
So unerringly faithful to the cartoon that the new additions feel unnecessary at best and distracting at worst. The new songs, in particular, are all awful. The CGI/3D pageantry, extending many of the musical numbers, is simply excessive. The cast is solid, even if Emma Watson clearly can't sing, but this remake has no clear reason to exist.
77. Kill 'Em All
Should've been a straight-forward potboiler. Instead, the screenwriters had something more elaborate in mind. The constantly shifting timeline is distracting. Van Damme seems very tired.
The potentially colorful supporting cast is underutilized. This is probably most worth seeing for Van Damme and Daniel Bernhardt's fight scene. Sadly, the rest of the action is disappointing.
ONE AND A HALF STARS:
78. It Stains the Sand Red
The horror cliché of “Stupid characters making stupid decisions” is alive and well in this indie. The film doesn't commit to its admittedly clever one girl vs. one zombie premise. The plot gets dumber, including an insultingly graphic sexual assault, before becoming a standard zombie flick in the last act. Also, the zombies roar for some reason, which really bugged me.
79. Amityville: The Awakening
Long-delayed meta reboot that is somehow more exploitative than any previous “Amityville” movie. This is a typical jump scare/CGI-fest that becomes unintentional hilarious as it heads into a preposterous last act. Jennifer Jason Leigh gives an uncharacteristically terrible performance. I did relate to the horror nerd character lusting after his disproportionately attractive female friends.
80. The Bye Bye Man
Dumb jump scares and increasingly ridiculous scenarios make it impossible for the audience to take a potentially creepy premise seriously. Heavy-handed direction turns screams into laughs. The acting is stiff, even from Carrie Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway. Despite the silly title, you see how this could've been good. Instead, it's a Babadook/Slenderman mash-up for morons.
81. Gun Shy
Dire attempt at an action/comedy. The jokes – peeing statues, lecherous Australians, vomiting llamas, snakes biting penises – are utterly desperate. Antonio Banderas embarrasses himself by committing to the lousy material. The violent action scenes come off as hopelessly mean-spirited. It also doesn't know when to end, the film dragging on through the credits.
Say so long, 2017. I wish I could say I'll miss you. If you actually read all the way through this list, thank you so much. If you're a regular Film Thoughts reader, thank you even more.
Come back tomorrow for my annual list of my most anticipated new releases of the new year. Thank you once again.