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The Best Movies of 2017

No getting around it: 2017 was a slog. But, to get us through the stress of life, at least we could escape for an hour or two into some of the most amazing worlds.

It’s also been an amazing year for the comic book movie and, indeed, all blockbusters. This year the genre really grew up, with complex and challenging fare that deconstructed some of our favorite characters and took them to the next level.

I had a hard time paring it down to just a top 10, so I’m presenting a somewhat more expanded list of things worth seeing and celebrating in 2017. Never before have I had a hair’s breadth separating my top 5, and my top 20 are all worth checking out.

So I’m going to give you the best and then the rest– my top 10 and then the rest of the movies that made my list. Where I reviewed the movie for Graphic Policy, I have also provided a link. To those from before I joined the site or didn’t get a chance to do a full review, oh well. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Oh, and if you care about such things, my bottom 10 list is here.

10. Coco — This is one of Pixar’s best and one of the movies most likely to make me cry. While it has some second act problems, its universal themes of family and remembering are as beautiful as the animation and music here. This is also the first movie in my top 10 with an amazing soundtrack — a common theme among 2017’s best movies.

9. Baby Driver — A musical with car chases. The only problem with this movie is its opening fifteen minutes are so perfect it rarely meets that same level again. This is the movie Edgar Wright did after breaking with Marvel over creative differences about Ant-Man. We are so much the richer for having both of these movies, especially Baby Driver. With career-best performances by some of its cast, it’s a perfect blend of editing, directing, acting, and sound. And it’s just a load of fun.

8. Wonder Woman – Patty Jenkins should be put in charge of the entire DC movie universe. She understands her characters, she understands the gravity and importance they hold for people, and managed to deliver THE iconic moment of 2017 in cinema: the “No Man’s Land” scene.

It’s that moment– when she wears the costume, embraces her powers and her purpose — that we see her origin story in a way rarely ever so fully expressed on screen. Sure, the movie had some problems– a weak villain and a somewhat predictable climax — but it was important in a way few other films in this list were. And it showed that the DCEU could be everything that the Marvel Cinematic Universe could. It’s not only one of the best comic movies of 2017, it’s one of the best of all time.

7. Atomic Blonde — Technically, a comic book movie. And the movie with the best soundtrack of the year, during which we see Charlize Theron kick all sorts of butt. It’s heartfelt, funny, and undeniably cool as they try to out-John-Wick John Wick. Give me more of this, please, perhaps in a shared universe where Charlize and Keanu throw down and then invariably team up.

6. The Shape of Water – What a beautiful film about love among outcasts. The entirety of this film is about noticing the silent people, the forgotten ones, and recognizing the humanity in each of us. Also, sex with fish-people! This is a masterpiece by Guillermo del Toro and worthy of all the nominations and buzz it’s been getting.

5. War for the Planet of the Apes – This is true for basically every other film in my top 5, but this film showed us that effects-driven blockbusters could have intense heart and meaning. It’s unfathomable to me that Gary Oldman will be nominated for acting awards for wearing a fatsuit and portraying Winston Churchill, but Andy Serkis will be snubbed yet again for his creation of an amazingly real character in Caesar. It’s unclear where the Apes franchise goes from here — and writer/director Matt Reeves is setting his sights next on righting The Batman (which makes me all sorts of excited) — but whatever happens, they created an amazing trilogy with a phenomenal third act. Perhaps the only downside is that the social commentary that hits so close for 2017 (humans building a wall as well as other not-so-subtle jabs at Trump) may not age particularly well.

4. Logan – “A man has to be what he is, Joey. Can’t break the mold. I tried it and it didn’t work for me. There’s no living with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand sticks. There’s no going back. Now you run on home to your mother, and tell her… tell her everything’s all right. And there aren’t any more guns in the valley.” James Mangold gave us a perfect western that just happened to have Wolverine and Professor X in it. And Jackman and Stewart are amazing. Ok, I lied about Coco. THIS is the most likely thing to make me cry in any movie in 2017.

3. (tie) Your Name – Normally I won’t give in to a tie, but since there is some doubt whether or not this is even a 2017 release (I go by date of wide US release, so that puts us in April of 2017), I’ll go for it. Already the #1 animated film of all time in Japan (with good reason), I’m not sure why this hasn’t become more popular in the US. But that’s what year-end lists are for, right? A story of (literal) star-crossed teens in Japan who seem to be switching bodies becomes the most interesting story of identity, love, and wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey time travel ever. It made me cry at least three times. It’s an amazing film and one which would’ve been in my top 3 for 2016 if I’d known of it then. If that disqualifies it from this list, then my #3 spot goes to. . .


3. (tie) Star Wars: The Last Jedi – It’s amazing. You know this. I love it for all the ways it blows open the Star Wars universe into something even bigger and more important. Plus, porgs. It, Logan, and Apes all showed that blockbuster filmmaking could be thoughtful and not just deliver a rehash of the expectations of the franchise. Star Wars is my favorite thing of all time, and this delivers in ways I didn’t know were possible. I’m greatly anticipating both Episodes IX and the new trilogy Rian Johnson will deliver to us.

2. Get Out – Usually a movie will come out early in the year and become a high water mark for me for the year. Then every film I see after I’ll just ask, “Was this better than [Get Out]?” Few movies made it close, but it stands strong at the end of the year as the most important movie of 2017 and only a hair’s breadth off of my #1. This was such an amazing effort from Jordan Peele. It was an atmospheric, psychological thriller and the most biting social commentary of the decade– and exactly what we need to hear in 2017. Unfortunately, the people who most need to see and understand this film never will.

1. Blade Runner 2049 – I’m still not sure why this failed to resonate with audiences. It was supremely beautiful, important, thoughtful—in essence, the opposite of the Spirit of 2017, so I guess it makes sense. It’s shameful to see this getting forgotten in so many year-end lists and awards considerations. If Roger Deakins doesn’t win a cinematography Oscar for this, we have failed as a society.

So, that’s it. Here’s the rest of my list:

11. A Monster Calls — All the tears for this gorgeous and touching film that somehow never caught on.

12. Detroit — If Blade Runner hadn’t flopped at the box office, this is my vote for most underrated movie of 2017.

13. Spider-Man: Homecoming – This was the Spider-Man movie we needed, with John Hughes meets the MCU. Let’s hope Sony and Marvel’s partnership continue to yield such spectacular results.

14. The Big Sick — The best comedy of the year, Kumail Nanjiani’s true story of clashes of cultures and medically induced comas is amazing and worth everyone’s time.

15. Beatriz at Dinner — This should be renamed “Micro-aggressions the Movie” as massage therapist Beatriz (an impeccable and Oscar-worthy  Salma Hayek) ends up at a dinner party thrown by one of her high end clients facing off against a Donald-Trump type developer (an equally impeccable Jon Lithgow). It’s amazing and the ending will depress the hell out of you.

16. The Greatest Showman — Hugh Jackman took the money he made from Logan and used it to produce this musical ostensibly about PT Barnum but in reality about the strange and wonderful family among society’s outcasts and “freaks” that make up his circus. If I could put the historical revisionism aside, this would end up in my top 10, but Barnum was a monster. But as a story about putting people of all shapes, colors, and abilities up on screen and seeing them as people? This is tops. Keala Settle, who plays the bearded lady, deserves an Oscar nomination. And this will get multiple nominations for best song, from the people who brought you La La Land last year.

17. Brigsby Bear – What if you were kidnapped as a child and the only media your reclusive parents let you watch was a specially-made-for-you childrens’ program? This film from the mind of SNL’s Kyle Mooney then becomes a unique, innocent look at the pure joy of fandom and sharing something you love with new people and the lengths you’d go to do it. Also featuring a supporting role by Mark Hammil, this is another great little film that flew under the radar but is worth your attention.

18. Thor: Ragnarok — This is Thor’s best movie to date and one of the most fun movies ever in the MCU. Some people complained the movie had “too many jokes,” but making a buddy comedy with superheroes is something that was long overdue and sorely needed late in 2017. Whatever writer/director Taika Waititi is doing next, I’m watching it.

19. The Disaster Artist — The movie that launched a thousand terrible reaction gifs finally gets its Ed Wood treatment. The Room is awful, but somehow James and Dave Franco make us fall in love with it and its mysterious director Tommy Wiseau. For that, and their loving shot for shot recreations of some of the film’s most heinous scenes, this was incredibly fun. It’s also the type of movie Hollywood loves– a movie about making movies.

20. Molly’s Game — A superserving of Sorkin will hit all the right notes for his fans.

21. Okja — If The Disaster Artist is to The Room what Ed Wood is to Plan 9 From Outer Space, then this satire from Bong Joon-ho (thanks to Netflix for making it) is the Dr. Strangelove of global agribusiness and capitalism. It took this movie a while to take off, but when it did, it became intensely satisfying. When it wasn’t skewering the corporation that totally wasn’t Monsanto, it was also just a tender story about a girl and her giant genetically modified pet “super pig.”

22. The Post — Steven Spielberg’s latest is perhaps the most important movie for the turn of 2017 to 2018 about the decision to print the Pentagon Papers by The Washington Post. Buried in the Oscarbait is an important story about the freedom of the press and a rogue White House intent on crushing it. I just wish it was told slightly better and that 80% of the time I wasn’t wishing I were watching All the President’s Men or The Fog of War. 

23. The Lego Batman Movie — A movie about family, a movie about feminism, and just the greatest mishmash of toy mayhem ever seen on screen. This was the best Batman we saw on screen all year.

24. Dunkirk — I won’t lie, I had some problems with Dunkirk. Mostly I thought Nolan was spending too much time showing us how clever he was instead of just giving us a good movie. But I can’t deny the artistry and pure filmmaking prowess that went into this. I still think the best way to illuminate my problems is to compare it to Detroit, which I did in my review here. 

25. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” may be one of my favorite moments on screen all year. And then, that ending was just too perfect. This movie had a lot going for it, but the fact that it ended up at #25 is a testament to just how good so many movies were this year.

26. IT — This was everything we needed in the fall of 2017. Funny, smart, and incredibly scary, it also gave us one of the best comedy moments of the year, too, with an SNL skit of Kellyanne Conway as Kellywise the Clown trying to lure Anderson Cooper into the Trump Sewer.

27. John Wick Chapter 2 — Sometimes sequels really deliver, and this was one instance of that. Once again, we get the beautiful ultra-violence of this universe and without all of that boring exposition or deeper meaning. Sometimes you just want to watch the world burn, and for that, there’s always John Wick.

28. Power Rangers — This might surprise people, but I liked the Power Rangers movie far more than it deserved. Never a fan of the original, this still brought me in with it intense heart and third act action sequence that dared you not to smile from ear to ear. Oh, and also Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa was a thing of beauty. Say it with me: “Krispy Kreme.”

29. Wind River — Taylor Sheridan knocks it out of the park again with an amazing script about a murder mystery and the intersection of the oil industry and reservation life. How does one get justice in the face of corporate coverups and mixed jurisdiction? The scene with Jon Berenthal is one of the most gripping and brutal things I saw all year.

30. [tie] It Comes at Night — Speaking of inhumanity and suspense, we get a case study in minimalism of just how much a director can do with basic sets and a basic premise: a plague wipes out most of humanity and one family must make decisions about whether or not to trust strangers to guarantee their survival. The title is misleading and don’t get snookered into thinking anything more supernatural is happening. There’s no monsters. Just death. Just people. And that’s the true horror.

[tie] Ingrid Goes West — Again, I hate ties, but I feel like this provides a great counterpoint to It Comes at Night. Except in this case, the monster that haunts us is social media, stalking, and depression. Aubrey Plaza is perfect as Ingrid, who moves to LA and ends up stalking an “Instagram celebrity” played by Elizabeth Olson to try to find her way into her life. O’Shea Jackson (Jr.) shows up as a Batman-obsessed would-be screenwriter. The final reveal of the film almost feels like the end of a slasher movie when we see the killer supernaturally rises from where we thought we had killed it. Fun and thoughtful.

So, yeah, that’s a lot of movies. To be fair, there were a few I missed, so apologies. But what about you? What did I miss? What did I overrate? What did I underrate?

Let us know, and here’s hoping we have as amazing a 2018 as we did a 2017– at least in movies. And from Black Panther in February to Mary Poppins in December with Avengers: Infinity War, Solo, and Incredibles 2 in between, my expectations are set abnormally and unreasonably high.

Let’s see what 2018 gives us.

War for the Planet of the Apes Wins the Weekend. Spider-Man Swings and Misses.

I had predicted it’d be a close weekend at the box office based on good word of mouth over Spider-Man: Homecoming but looks like I was off on that one. By a wide margine, War for the Planet of the Apes won the weekend with an estimated $56.5 million. The film also earned $46 million at the foreign box office for a total of $102.5 million worldwide. That’s not bad for a first weekend with a budget of $150 million. War‘s opening was a million more than Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011 and $16 less than 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Luckily War is about $20 million cheaper than Dawn as far as budget.

The film was 57% male and 63% were 25 years or older as well as 48% Caucasian, 20% African American, 18% Hispanic, and 10% Asian. The opening day audience gave the film an “A-” CinemaScore.

Spider-Man: Homecoming in its second week dropped 61% to bring in $45.2 million. It also brought in $72.3 million at the foreign box office. The film stands at $208.3 million domestically and $261.1 million at the foreign box office for a total of $469.4 million.

Despicable Me 3 added $18.9 million to its domestic total to bring it to $188 million but the foreign box office is where it’s at. The film has earned $431.4 million for a total of $619.4 million.

In fourth place was Baby Driver which earned $8.8 million at the domestic box office. Domestically the film has earned $73.2 million and worldwide the film has earned $96.3 million. That’s a win with just a $34 million budget.

Rounding out the top five was The Big Stick which earned $7.6 million domestically and sits at $16.1 million.

In comic movie earnings…

Wonder Woman moved to sixth adding $6.9 million to its domestic total. The film has earned $380.6 million domestically and $384.2 million at the foreign box office for a total of $764.9 million.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was #13 adding $512,000 to its total. The film has earned $386.6 million domestically and $472.5 million at the foreign box office for a total of $859.1 million.

Logan added about $30,000 to its total during the week.

Smurfs: The Lost Village added $400,000 to its total over the past week.

We’ll be back in an hour for a deeper dive into this year’s comic adaptations.

Spider-Man: Homecoming Opens with $117 Million, and $250 million Worldwide

Spider-Man: Homecoming was the top film this weekend with a reported $117 million worldwide. That is the second best opening for a Spider-Man film barely beating the 2002 original (neither of those are adjusted for inflation). It’s also the largest opening for a single character for Marvel since 2008’s Iron Man. The film also earned $140 million at the foreign box office for a total of $257 million.

The film had the third largest opening of the year in between Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘s $146.5 million and Wonder Woman‘s $103.2 million. The film still has to open in France, Germany, Spain, Japan, and China.

Despicable Me 3 came in second place with an estimated $34 million to bring its domestic total to $149 million. Worldwide the film has earned $447.6 million.

Baby Driver continues to overperform coming in third with $12.8 million to bring its domestic total to $56.8 million with $14 million at the foreign box office for a worldwide total of $70.9 million. With a budget of $34 million, the film’s a success.

Wonder Woman added $10.1 million to its domestic total to come in fourth. With $377 million at the foreign box office the film has earned $745.8 million worldwide so far. There’s a good chance the film will pass Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 domestically in the next week or two.

Rounding out the top five was Transformers: The Last Knight which earned an estimated $6.3 million. The film stands at $118.9 million domestically and $494.6 million worldwide.

Next week sees the opening of War for the Planet of the Apes which will create an interesting competition for first place. Expect a tight race driven by the film’s strong word of mouth.

In other comic movie news….

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 added $846,000 domestically to bring its domestic total to $385.5 million and $857.7 million worldwide.

Logan gained abouit $200,000 worldwide over the last week.

Smurfs: The Lost Village marches along adding another $1 million worldwide over the week

We’ll be back in an hour with a deeper look at this year’s comic adaptations.

Despicable Me 3 Wins the Box Office. Baby Driver Overperforms for Second

Despicable Me 3 won the weekend box office with $75.4 million, which is about $10 million less than Despicable Me 2. That amount is also about $8 million shy of what was predicted for its opening. The film received an “A-” CinemaScore and was about 50/50 male and female. 69% of the viewers were families and 50% were under the age of 13.

The film opene up overseas two weeks ago and added 46 new territories this past weekend. The film brougt in $95.6 million from international box offices for a total of $116.9 million internationally and $192.3 million worldwide so far. There’s still 15 territories to go.

In second place was Baby Driver for Edgar Wright which broughin about $21 million over the three-day weekend and about $30 million over five days. That’s the largest opening for a Wright film and solid buzz drove the film’s earnings higher. That openeing beat expectations, though we expected it to overpeform due to positive buzz. The film received an “A-” CinemaScore with an audience that was 55% male and 61% age 25 and older. You can read our review.

In third place was last week’s champ Transformers: The Last Knight which added $17 million to its total to bring it to $102.1 million domestically. The film also earned $68 million at the international box office with some larger markets still to open. Despite poor reviews the film has earned $429.9 million over two weeks.

Wonder Woman came in fourth place adding $16.1 million to its domestic total to bring it to $346.6 million. The film also crossed another milestone and so far sits at $708.4 million worldwide.

Rounding out the top five was Cars 3 which added $9.5 million to bring its domestic total to bring that to $120.7 million. Worldwide the film has earned $173.8 million.

As far as comic related films…

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 added $1.4 million to its domestic total to bring that to $383.3 million domestically and $854.5 million worldwide.

Logan added $500,000 over the past week to bring its worldwide total to $615.9 million.

Smurfs: The Lost Village added about $1 million to its total over the week to bring its worldwide take to $194.8 million.

We’ll be back in an hour to dive further into where the comic films stand this year.

Movie Review: Baby Driver

After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

Edgar Wright is one of my favorite writers and directors having yet to disappoint in a film and effortlessly blending action and humor. Baby Driver, his latest film, leans heavier on the action side of things, but also gives us his best work yet in a movie that blends action, humor, and music in a way that feels original and a nonstop ride.

Actor Ansel Elgort shines as Baby, the “Baby” in Baby Driver who is forced to be the wheelman for some bad folks. It’s a good thing Baby is a natural behind the wheel moving a car like some direct symphonies. The film opens with a sequence that sets the tone as to what we can expect and for just shy of two hours we’re treated to a music driven action film that feels like as much as a ride as it is a movie.

What surprised me at first is the use of music which feels not like a soundtrack but instead we’re part of the action surrounded by the thumping sound. It’s diagetic, as Baby experiences the music, so do we. It also emphasizes the role music plays driving our lives and helping us perform our actions. Even a scene in a laundry mat feels like it’s straight out of a music video.The music too provides clues as to Baby’s life. Wright brilliantly uses the music to teach us about Baby’s life allowing a backstory to be presented without wasting time with filmed scenes.

The music too provides clues as to Baby’s life. Wright brilliantly uses the music to teach us about Baby’s life allowing a backstory to be presented without wasting time with filmed scenes. It also provides clues as to where things are going. As Baby’s world unravels so does the music as it slows and becomes eratic. It’s impressive and one of the best usses of music in any film I’ve experienced.

Ansel is cool in a movie full of cool individuals. A relative newcomer, Elgort goes toe to toe with Jon Bernthal (underused), Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, and Jamie Foxx. That’s impressive, beyond impressive. Eiza Gonzalez and Lily James are newcomers to me and deliver fantastic performances as well, one bad ass and the other Bonnie to Elgort’s Clyde. Everyone, no matter how big the role, nails it. Truly impressive is CJ Jones who plays Joseph, Baby’s caretaker who is now being taken care of. Jones is the rarity in films a deaf individual playing a deaf character and his inclusion shows how focused on the details Wright was when creating this film. While a lot of the characters and performances borderline on tropes/stereotypes, each is beyond enjoyable and most importantly fun.

Baby Driver is a mix of films, Goodfellas, Heat, Fast and the Furious, but still stands out as an original. This is my favorite film of the year by a long shot and one I could watch over and over. Baby Driver is a music driven, action packed, adrenaline fueled, instant classic.

Overall Rating: 10

Director Edgar Wright to Debut Baby Driver at Awesome Con

LeftField Media has announced that Director Edgar Wright will make a special appearance at this year’s Awesome Con. Wright will screen his new, highly anticipated film Baby Driver to a select DC audience, and will appear as part of the Awesome Con’s featured weekend programs, including a signing with fans. Awesome Con is Washington DC’s Comic Con and attracts over 60,000 fans, guests including David Tennant, Stan Lee, and Scott Snyder, and partners including the Smithsonian and Nickelodeon. Awesome Con will be Wright’s exclusive US Comic Con appearance in the lead up to Baby Driver’s debut.

Baby Driver – written and directed by Wright – is the story of Baby, a talented, young getaway driver who relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. When he meets the girl of his dreams, he sees a chance to ditch his criminal life and make a clean getaway, but after being coerced into working for a crime boss, Baby must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, love, and freedom. Baby Driver features an ensemble cast including Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx. Tristar Pictures and MRC present Baby Driver opening in US theaters on June 28.

Wright has developed a cult following and widespread acclaim for his clever, quirky, and imaginative films – including Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. Fans looking to meet him and get a first look at his Baby Driver can find him at various Awesome Con events…

  • Baby Driver Preview Screening – Thursday, June 157 PM at Regal Gallery Place
    A special pre-Awesome Con event, this limited screening is open to select fans and media, and will feature a showing of the full film together with a Q&A from Wright.

 

  •  Baby Driver Debut Panel and Q&A – Saturday, June 172 PM at Awesome Con’s Main Stage
    Edgar Wright and Felicia Day (The Guild, Dr. Horrible) take to Awesome Con’s Main Stage to speak about Wright’s career, the creation of Baby Driver, his fans, and working with the film’s all-star cast. The panel will feature giveaways, surprises, and special clips from Baby Driver.

 

  •  Edgar Wright Signing – Saturday, June 173:15 PM in Awesome Con’s Autograph Area
    Meet Edgar Wright and get a Baby Driver poster signed by the film’s writer and director! Wright will conduct a special signing with details on participation coming soon.

 

Awesome Con takes place June 16-18, 2017 in the Walter Washington Convention Center, and tickets are available now at awesomecon.com.