1. Kingsman: The Golden Circle; A+
Kingsman: The Secret Service was my numero uno movie of 2015, so I went in with pretty sizable expectations. Director Matthew Vaughn gave us even more balls-to-the-walls action and mayhem than he did in the first installment and while the public seemed to sway away from it, I was all over it. I didn't go to a Kingsman flick to see them pull punches. On top of the incredible action and topical plot, the movie had a ton of heart and was few to bring me to tears in 2017.
Taron Egerton made his acting debut with the first Kingsman and returns with just as much (if not somehow more) gusto and suave than he did in round one. Colin Firth is brought back because why the hell not and new additions are aplenty. None stand out more and are utilized more than the fantastic Pedro Pascal. Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry are surprisingly filler and saved for the trilogy conclusion but it's not enough to redact from a movie that checks out beautifully (for me) in every imaginable department.
Julianne Moore is sadistic and very human as the villainous Poppy Adams and Edward Holcroft seamlessly steps into the henchman role, replacing the dearly departed Sofia Boutella.
Also noteworthy is the music in this and the first one. We traded "Free Bird" for some Prince and KC and the Sunshine Band for a little Boss Hoss. Furthermore, composers Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson deliver another winner, only adding to the number one case of The Golden Circle.
2. The Greatest Showman; A+
My final viewing of the year (it actually came on January 1st because I couldn't convince any friends to see a musical with me) was worthy of finishing a very strong cinemAcetic 2017. I've badly wanted to see this movie since peeping the preview prior to Kingsman in September. After hearing "This Is Me," I was already counting down the days 'til I could see that sung in context. Boy was it worth the wait. Keala Settle is mind-bogglingly sensational.
Though his 249 Wolverine appearances in 245 different X-Men timelines have made Hugh Jackman a hollywood star, it's his roots in theater that got him started. As the smug but exceptionally charming P.T. Barnum, Jackman is in peak form as one of my favorite actors going today.
Just as great is co-star Zac Efron (these roles are for him! Not Baywatch or god forbid Bad Grandpa.) Seeing him sing and dance like he does in Showman brought back middle school memories of High School Musical, which is why I joined choir at Renner Middle School. Because of Efron and that movie.
Jackman, Efron, Settle and the rest of the colorful cast are all magnificent as both actors and performers. Zendaya is far more useful than she was in Spider-Man and I just realized my top three is inadvertently front page material for the Disney Channel fan club. Anyway...
The great music, which has been relentlessly stuck in my head and has winning tracks from top to bottom (seriously, there isn't a weak link), is a Barnum-sized top hat on top of a fantastic movie that is inspiring, uplifting and makes you really love the world for a little over two hours.
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming; A+
There are two movies of the 42 I saw in 2017 that could be in the number one slot. Somebody has to get the silver medal and Homecoming easily captures that honor. Thanks to mixed receptions to the two Amazing Spider-Man films, studio combustion but most importantly the SONY hack scandal, Marvel was able to regain their number one superhero. Before Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans made Iron Man and Captain America the go-to comic figures, Spider-Man dominated the Marvel landscape.
With a Spider-Man film comes great Spider-sized expectations. While I will always claim Tobey Maguire as my number one Spidey and liked Andrew Garfield's interpretation, Tom Holland absolutely knocked it out of the park. Using his cutesy baby face and a gymnastics background, you're constantly glued to him on screen. Why are Brits such perfect New Yorkers? He's exceptional. There's a man crush here I refuse to dive into deeper in front of you all.
I wouldn't mind seeing less of his high school posse of Ned, Liz and Michelle. Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture is sensational. A many villains are tossed around in this movie, but don't need their own plot, merely hinting at more to come rather than bogging down the story.
Also of note, the criminal overexposure of trailers (especially concerning plot points) inspired me to cut back how much pre-movie reading and media viewing I do. So thanks for that, SONY marketing team.
4. War for the Planet of the Apes; A+
What happened here? Movie's fortunes these days seem to be based on one thing above all else: critics. Rotten Tomatoes has changed the game and built a black and white world for viewers to see movies through. War received stellar reviews like its two predecessors and looked poised to build tremendously on the big box office of Dawn back in 2014.
While the movie hauled in a more than respectable $490 million, it stumbled to less than $200 million domestically and made $220 million less than the movie before it.
Similar to how stunning Kong looks in the upcoming Kong: Skull Island, the apes in WftPotA look unbelievable. It is literally hard to believe how good they look. Andy Serkis rounds out Caesar's trilogy with triumph and one of the most under-appreciated trilogies of the franchise era seems to have indeed somehow gone overlooked this year. Not by me.
Additionally, Michael Giacchino continued his remarkable calendar year. He finished a year that included awesome scores for Star Trek Beyond (July '16), Doctor Strange (November '16), Rogue One (December '16), Spider-Man: Homecoming (July) and War For the Planet of the Apes (the very next week). One of the tracks is called "Planet of the Escapes," how great is that? And why didn't Disney let him use his trademark puns on the Rogue One disc? Questions, questions.
5. John Wick: Chapter 2; A+
2014's John Wick was a big surprise. Keanu Reeves was considered well past his prime and it looked like a potential Taken ripoff What we got was more dynamic action than any Taken or pretty much most action movies of recent memory. An R rating provides some brutal deaths -- and there are a lot of them.
In Chapter 2, the story is a little less personal (it's super super personal in the first episode) but it's still full of really, really impressive fighting and shooting and killing. Rarely is action this beautifully choreographed and it makes all the relentless action far more meaningful. Once again, there's actual heart and substance to Wick's story and the universe already has building blocks in place that every studio is looking for these days.
6. Thor: Ragnarok; A+
MCU movies are always favorites of mine, but this year provided two of my lower rankings to come out of Marvel Studios' gazillion dollar franchise. That's not to say I didn't love all three (Guardians 2, Spider-Man and Thor) because I definitely, most certainly did. But dipping into the lucrative pot of jokes cost me some of what I really love to get out of a movie: stakes. Emotional stakes.
Ragnarok has them at times but mostly seems intent on getting to the next punch line. Director Taika Waititi brings a lot --a lot-- of comedy to the table. The drama of the first two Thor's is pretty much ditched to make Thor a goofier, clumsier hero. It's not that it doesn't work, because it's still a top six movie of 2017 for me, but the departure from the classic Ragnarok comic is slightly jarring.
7. Get Out; A+
I love Jordan Peele. As a young white male who watched Key & Peele, I thought it was the funniest damn show in the world. So I was really up for Peele's directorial debut and boy did he deliver. Get Out is one of those few movies that you really want to see more than twice because you're still having "oh sh*t" moments in the third viewing. The movie is such a sophisticated and intellectual commentary on real issues but all the while remembers that it's a movie. It's also genre bending and perfectly places its usage of comedy, horror and scares.
8. The Disaster Artist; A+
Now outside of the top ten, I'll be getting a bit briefer in recapping these films. Not to say many to follow don't deserve it because they do and I still have some A+ grades to hand out.
Based on the somehow created 2003 movie The Room (which is worth watching for its lunacy), James Franco plays that movie's architect Tommy Wiseau to absolute perfection. He's almost better at being Tommy Wiseau than Tommy Wiseau. It's a legitimate laugh out loud movie that has you asking the question you should be: what the **** is The Room?!?!
9. Kong: Skull Island; A+
Warner Bros. is attempting to build a "MonsterVerse" and while I didn't dislike 2014's Godzilla, it was painfully slow and the action payoff of the titular monster didn't do it for me. I've always preferred King Kong to Godzilla because I love monkeys (or apes...) and while both are actually sympathetic, lovable city-killers, Kong is just so damn cute.
Skull Island really had no business being any good. I wasn't expecting a whole lot but exited the theater absolutely blown away by the thrill ride of it. The character beats are mostly hit (John C. Reily, Samuel L. Jackson) and rarely miss, all the while feeding a coherent story in a movie about a giant monkey on a planet consisting of ancient mega-beasts.
Of all the movies I saw this year, what makes Kong stand out and earn such a high ranking is the spectacle. Kong himself is created flawlessly with stunning CGI and his first appearance on screen sets the tone for one helluva movie.
10. It; A+
The unofficial father (Jerry! Jerry!) of Netflix's Stranger Things --even borrowing one of the kids-- Stephen King's It spent so many years in production hell that when it finally arrived this past September, who knew how it would turn out? Well, it's a home run.
Pennywise is played perfectly from up-and-comer Bill Skarsgård, Son of Stellan, both fascinating to look at and terrifyingly likable. The Loser's Club are all winners as well. Casting is crucial when the heart of the film revolved around young boys and a girl, but each of the young actors are great in their own way. You want to love them and laugh with them and see them not get hideously murdered by the clown that you also love and laugh at. The end result is incredibly pleasing, both as a scary movie and a coming-of-age tale with a lot of funny, heartfelt moments.
11. Gifted; A+
I teared up a couple times this year in films. Kingsman brought me to tears, the Infinity War trailer prior to The Last Jedi brought me to tears and The Greatest Showman had that effect when Keala Settle belted out "This Is Me," but I wasn't quite balling in those movies like I was in Gifted. Maybe it's my historically deep soft spot for Chris Evans but he, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer and young Mckenna Grace form a great team in this one.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2; A+
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was obviously a surprise. It was supposed to be the first failure from Marvel Studios. Taking Marvel Comic's D team and turning it into a blockbuster film? Surrrrrrrre. That movie was an insanely fun space adventure with a stellar cast and extremely likable characters. Volume two should have been great.
And it was! I gave it a very high A+ grade after all. Compared to any other film, it's a masterpiece of fun, special effects and thrills. However, it's a step back from Marvel in terms of storytelling, character development, plot pacing and the usual jokey wit from the studio is in overdrive here.
Whether it's Rocket's winking jokes, Drax's turd quips or his torturing of Mantis, Gamora and Nebula engaging in a scream off or Kurt Russell's Ego giving exposition on end for what seemed like the movie's entire middle act, this one didn't have the same magic. With that said, it's still pretty magical. And without this movie I never would have experienced the Inferno!
13. Patriots Day; A+
I'm always tepid to historical or fact based movies because I'm more likely to want to absorb that information on a page rather than the big screen. Alas, Patriots Day was another fantastic Mark Wahlberg-Peter Berg team-up. Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon were also great and Pats Day (affectionally shortened) is so very gripping.
Based on the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, the story is beautifully constructed, following different characters as we lead up to the tragic moment and the following manhunt. It leaves you breathless and you leave the theater contemplative but also feeling triumphant because like David Ortiz said, "this is our f*cking city!"
14. Logan Lucky; A+
In the words of Colin Firth's Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service, I'll take a farfetched, theatrical plot any day of the week. Logan Lucky, the second amazing film this year involving a Logan, is fairly outrageous in the execution of its driving story: the robbery of the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
But in the stead of any potential head-scratchers, the movie thrives (as most good movies do) with its cast. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are addictive as hillbilly brothers down on their luck. Daniel Craig trades his lucrative James Bond digs for an escaping inmate and fellow hillbilly himself. The movie --like Kingsman: The Golden Circle-- also breaks you down in the feels with John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads.
15. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; A+
Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Jeff Bridges are worthy of their Oscar praise. Rockwell has become one of my favorite actors between this, The Way, Way, Back and smaller roles in Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens. Then there’s the Lebowski himself. Murder mysteries tend to be extremely compelling, with Three Billboards no exception. Nobody likes a truly happy ending.
16. Logan; A
I wanted to give Logan an A+. Alas, it nevertheless tops the A section. It took 17 years but we finally got a good Wolverine movie. The 2013 one wasn't half bad but it wasn't half good either. Origins in 2009 had redeemable moments but it took almost two decades for Fox to give it's golden X-Men goose a proper solo outing.
James Mangold goes full independent vibe after studio interference directing the 2013 version and it's a welcome change in a superhero film. Obviously, its a brutal R rating as well and it fits the character like a glove. He's got metal claws after all. However, the profanity and needless nude scene are a bit gratuitous and the film is 20 minutes too long. Prior to the third act, Jackman's Logan naps for said 20 minutes.
17. I, Tonya; A
The dramatized biopic starring Margot Robbie is a stellar performance. I’m not sure how affected I am by Sebastian Stan co-starring. No, it’s not just him, this is actually a great movie with an equally great soundtrack
18. Baby Driver; A
This movie is a lot of fun and I'm a big fan of Edgar Wright. While Peyton Reed totally rocked Ant-Man, there's always that "what if?" regarding Wright and Ant-Man, which he was attached to for over a decade. (Also, did you know it was his idea to move the Nick Fury scene in Iron Man from the middle to the end of the credits? Epic.)
Anyway, Baby Driver has a great soundtrack and a sentimental protagonist. I could do without so much Jamie Fox brutishness and it's hard to appreciate Kevin Spacey right now amidst some disgusting allegations, but the movie itself is a lot of fun and very original up until the final moments.
19. The Belko Experiment; A
James Gunn attached as writer didn't hurt but as a fan of the horror genre, especially when it covers the "utter mayhem" front, I was definitely in on Belko. The film doesn't try to be smarter than it is but does pose the question about the ultimate human trait of survival. When an office in the middle of nowhere is shut down and the last one standing can walk out, it gets chaotic. Chaotic doesn't even cut it. The Joker would be proud as the clown prince agent of chaos. I had a ton of fun just taking this one all in.
20. Murder on the Orient Express; A
Fans and critics alike didn't seem to get on board the Orient, but at the same time they didn't hate it. They just didn't really like it. But I did! Maybe it's my stubborn affection for Director/Star Kenneth Branagh, who really makes or breaks this movie with his dominant presence, but I really dug the murder mystery.
A star studded cast doesn't really do a whole lot and I admit I had no prior knowledge of the bestselling Agatha Christie novel, but I quite enjoyed myself in MOTOE.
21. Wonder Woman; A-
The only critically accepted DCEU movie to date of five. I liked Wonder Woman. However, I can't claim to love it like the rest of the world. It dragged quite a bit in the middle and as beautiful as Gal Gadot is, I'm not overly invested in her portrayal of Diana. The climactic fight sequence makes the rest of the humble, gritty film feel like a different one. CGI overload and a lecture from Diana about how much humans suck bog down a third act. She also is pretty much invisible in the succeeding Justice League. It's almost like adding three major characters to three that have only had one movie of mediocre development (Superman had two I guess) was a bad idea.
But seriously, Hans Zimmer's Wonder Woman theme is just so good. I love Hans Zimmer. Check out his The Amazing Spider-Man 2 work if you haven't.
22. Happy Death Day; A-
Another murder mystery! This one of a very different ilk. Trade in the drama for scares but Happy Death Day isn't the horror that many expected it to be and is more about solving the mystery at hand. It's worth figuring out and the Groundhog Day theme to dying over and over is extremely clever and well executed. (Heh, executed.)
23. Annabelle: Creation; B+
At times, I found myself rolling my eyes at the acting of the young girls in this movie. But they are young girls after all. It's just a tad annoying. But the movie itself is great and another excellent chapter in The Conjuring universe. Worth noting I was genuinely scared by the previous Annabelle incarnation, which wasn't well received. I'm all in on the James Wan horror-verse.
24. Wind River; B+
Murder mysteries, as you've seen from previous high ranking entries like Orient Express and Happy Death Day, are something I'm a fan of. Director Taylor Sheridan (who wrote the absolutely magnificent Sicario) pumps out another tactical thriller. Starring MCU best buddies Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Wind River is extremely gripping in handling the real life issue of not just murder but sexual abuse.
Based on a true story of the actual events at the Wind River region in Wyoming, it's a pretty haunting movie not because of jump scares but life scares.
25. Justice League; B
Oh, dear. Another DC movie, another critical lashing. Outside of Wonder Woman DC movies have (mostly rightfully) been torn apart by reviewers. However, the box office hasn't felt any of the damage until Justice League. It's a shame, too, because DC tries really hard to wipe away the misfire of Batman V Superman and give us a pure popcorn flick here.
Originally the first of two parts, the sequel has all but been scrapped. The future of the DCEU is cloudier than a dark night but at least they had some fun with the famous DC Comics superheroes before it was over. Of note: Danny Elfman replaced Junkie XL and outside of a neat Flash theme goes through some concerning motions with the soundtrack.
26. A Cure For Wellness; B-
I was expecting a little more from this one, but was nonetheless very pleased. I really liked Dane Dehaan in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Harry Osborn. Harry shouldn't have been in that already crowded movie but Dehaan gave the character a damn strong emotional core. I really felt for him in TAMS2 film while most found him bratty and dismissive.
Anyway, Wellness was a great outing for Dehaan. The story is an A+ grade on paper as the rich prodigy Dane plays goes to inspect his missing boss at a health center. What follows is some crazy sh*t, a lot of it which stretches a bit too far. Jason Isaacs is also fantastic.
27. The Lego Batman Movie; B-
A very solid movie. My expectation bar was set perhaps too high after the (kind of) out-of-nowhere brilliance of The Lego Movie. The small pieces of Batman lore in the 2014 film promised a hilarious and meta 2017 one. The references to all sorts of Batman movies, TV shows and comics are worth the price of admission but I was frequently reminded that even as a pretty immature 23-year old, this is indeed a movie targeted directly at kids.
28. Power Rangers; B-
When I was an actual kid, I had many entertainment obsessions. The Land Before Time, the Spider-Man animated series, Lion King and Tarzan but none provided the kind of dress up potential as the Power Rangers. Finally on the big screen in an era of adaptations, 2017's Power Rangers was a good movie but I won't pretend it's anything more.
It's slow moving and there's not a lot of screen time in costume due to the inevitable franchise-building-itis, which makes the final showdown against Elizabeth Banks' demented RIta very underwhelming. Composer Brian Tyler delivers a winning version of the classic Power Rangers theme, though.
29. Star Wars: The Last Jedi; B-
I wrote about The Last Jedi here. I really can't say much more because that is a bonafide mouthful. But you're probably asking yourself, "if you hated it so much why is it still a B-?"
Valid question. I was extremely, utterly disappointed as a Star Wars fanatic. But as far as it compares to the standard journey at a theater near you, there's no doubt the beauty of the film and the extravagance it offers in CGI, set design and sound.
30. I Am Heath Ledger; B-
This one was hard to rank because it's a documentary that I saw in theaters. It wasn't a wide release but a Fathom Events production. Ledger's Joker is one of my favorite and one of the greatest cinematic characters ever ever ever and I found his real life story tragic and worth learning more about.
The movie is obviously insightful but the film treads over a lot of the same story and, at least for me, was often less about Ledger and more about his social circle.
31. Dunkirk; C
Oh, boy those Dunkirk trailers made your blood run cold didn't they? The movie, unfortunately, could put you to sleep. The quality of movies (again, in my opinion) takes a definable dip from here through movie 42.
Few movies are as well acted and aesthetically stunning as Dunkirk. Unfortunately, it's a bore. It really is. There are as many intimate moments in the movie as their are in the trailers, the rest of the movie a lot of inconsequential dialogue.
32. The Founder; C-
I'm not much for movies based on real life stories (which is why Darkest Hour is where it is) but I do love me some Michael Keaton. I also love McDonald's granted I don't eat it anymore because I want to live past 60. The movie is just fine how it is and paints Ray Kroc accurately as the scumbag he was. It's the story it is because of that and I feel horribly for Nick Offerman every time I so much as think about this movie.
33. Atomic Blonde; C-
David Leitch has certainly found an ass-kicking niche. He co-directed the first John Wick, was an advisor on the second and is at the helm of the Deadpool sequel due this year. In the meantime, he gave us Atomic Blonde. As much I as I love Wick, Blonde doesn't have the same kind of interesting or congruent story.
The kickass combat Leitch has given those movies above --he even aided the Russo brothers with the opening fight scene in Captain America: Civil War between Cap and villain Crossbones-- is certainly present with Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, but I seriously had no idea what was going on. Maybe I'm stupid (sans maybe), but trying to follow the seemingly endless spy agency angles in this movie was numbing. I have to add that there is an incredibly R rated sex scene between Theron and Sofia Boutella. I just have to. Moving on.
34. The House; D+
Comedies are dime a dozen. There's eventually a movie like The Disaster Artist that is genuinely funny and some that just completely suck like two more to come on this list. The House is closer to the latter but managed to be funny enough in moments to justify a D+ grade.
35. Split; D+
As someone who has suffered from mental illness, I was curious to see what the enigmatic M. Night Shyamalan would bring to the table. Somewhere along the way, this went from a movie serious about its content to a generic horror attempt. (James McAvoy's back-to-back appearances on this list are simply coincidence.)
36. Darkest Hour; D+
I'm going on record as uncomfortable and mad at myself for this grade. I didn't really want to see this movie. Historical pieces don't really interest me but my dad wanted to punch his annual movie card and I was happy to join him.
Gary Oldman is captivating and possesses hauntingly pinpoint accuracy as Winston Churchill and the movie does a fantastic job of telling the tale of the events around Dunkirk. Dunkirk doesn't. I just wasn't really interested in the first place so it was destined to rank low.
37. Ghost in the Shell; D
Based on the uber popular anime, Ghost In The Shell manages to be even more confusing than Atomic Blonde, even more incoherent than Valerian and is easily the most sexist motion picture of the year. There's a saving grace in the skin tight contraption Scarlett Johansson has going on but that only fulfills the point I previously made.
38. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets; D
Oh, dear. My best friend Jake fell asleep in this one. Like out like a light. I was really hopeful about the Luc Besson vehicle. A french comic adaptation, Besson broke the bank to deliver a CGI spectacle. It is indeed one but it also has some of the worst acting (Dane Dehaan is dreadful here and Cara Delevingne is in peak Suicide Squad form) and story points of any movie. If it won a Razzie I wouldn't defend it.
39. Alien: Covenant; D-
After loving Prometheus, I was intrigued about returning to the Alien narrative. Instead we get a horribly dull story and a movie that --kind of like Star Wars: The Last Jedi-- feels completely disconnected from its predecessor.
40. Why Him?; D-
James Franco and Bryan Cranston as dueling father and son-in-law? Count me in. The movie opens with a Netflix and chill joke and from there it doesn't get better. KISS appears at the end but, like, why? (Get it?) Thankfully Franco and Cranston also teamed up for redemption in The Disaster Artist.
41. The Mummy; D-
I was really bored on a June afternoon and despite the unsightly reviews (including a dreadful user score) I went for it. The Mummy was intended to kick off Universal's "Dark Universe" but drove it so hard into the ground that by November the entire thing was canned.
Splurging on a large popcorn, I chanced an action flick. It had its cooler moments in that regard but this is the bad version of Tom Cruise (as opposed to say, Edge of Tomorrow) and I really shouldn't have given this movie the time of day.
42. Daddy’s Home 2; F
Or this one. The first Daddy's Home in 2015 was a pleasant surprise. I adore both Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg and was up for revisiting "The Other Guys." The sequel two years later was just dreadful across the board.
It tries to redeem itself at the end with some heartwarming Christmas moments but is embarrassingly corny and sappy and is just a terrible, terrible film. I should have known better to trust a project involving Mel Gibson.
43. It Comes at Night; F
The marketing for It Comes at Night was either fantastic or misleading. As a horror/thriller junkie, I bought in to the hype but this movie is one of those independent psychological thrillers that I can't stand. Nothing happens at all but you're supposed to be having some sort of epic cerebral experience. Instead, I was reminded of how frustrated I was with the similar The Witch from 2016.
44. Fences; F
Like Darkest Hour, I didn't want to see this to begin with which definitely affects its post-viewing rank. I'm not a play guy. I've seen one in my life by choice and it was for a school project. I figured with it adapting to cinema, they would spruce it up a bit.
I gotta tell ya, I was so bored during Fences. I was literally aching in my bones. And that's how I'll wrap up 2017 CinemAce!