TITLE: BLACK PANTHER
DIRECTOR: RYAN COOGLER
STARRING: CHADWICK BOSEMAN, MICHAEL B. JORDAN, LUPITA NYONG'O, DANIEL GURIRA, DANIEL KALUUYA, LETITIA WRIGHT, MARTIN FREEMAN, ANDY SERKIS
Black Panther is a shot of fresh air, for a franchise that started to feel awfully familiar a long time ago. Despite some glaring faults, Black Panther entertains. The film has a bad pacing problem. It's just over 2 hour runtime, is felt- hard. The narrative struggles to keep pace throughout its bloated middle section. Keeping the film afloat, is Chadwick Boseman as the titular character. Michael B. Jordan does a solid job, although, he tends to delve into hammy territory at times. Given Marvel's track record with its villains, he fits right in. Lupitia Nyong'o and the rest of the surrounding cast, help out Boseman along the way. However, it is Letitia Wright, who steals the show here. Martin Freeman, has a surprisingly juicy role along with Andy Serkis. And with Serkis, twice in one film, Marvel cements their villain problem as more of a plague. Disney also needs to consider hiring better CGI people. Some of the work here, is just awful. The soundtrack to the film, is probably the best in the library of Marvel films to date. Black Panther succeeds on more levels than it should. It's one of the stronger entries in the MCU, as its content and message add more to the film at its core.
TITLE: THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX
DIRECTOR: JULIUS ONAH
STARRING: GUGU MBATHA-RAW, DAVID OYELOWO, DANIEL BRUHL, CHRIS O'DOWD, JOHN ORTIZ, ZIYI ZHANG, ELIZABETH DEBICKI, ROGER DAVIES
As we all know, the Cloverfield franchise is no stranger to marketing gimmicks. The original flick, made use of a surprising viral campaign. One that was spoofed by the very TV station I work for no-less. 10 Cloverfield Lane, aired its first trailer a mere 2 months before the film's release. And nobody knew it was even coming. The Cloverfield Paradox followed suit. Although its path, was a bit trickier. Late last week, Netflix acquired the film from Paramount. In a gutsy move, Netflix aired the first trailer during the Super Bowl, then dropped the entire film after the game. While Netflix did something quite unprecedented, the film itself isn't up to that hype. The Cloverfield Paradox, suffers heavily from The J.J. Abrams Syndrome. The film has lots of big, grand ideas, with the promise of some big reveals. However, it never delivers on much of what it sets out to do. Like the original Cloverfield, it teases the audience quite heavily, but never truly fulfills the promises it sets up. What we are left with, is a generic, lost in space, Science Fiction film, filled with scientific gobbledygook to muddle the plot. The Cloverfield Paradox isn't bad, it's just bland. The flick has really solid performances from the cast, and they hold the film together. It's also really predictable, which is a shame. We know where this is going from the moment the film starts. It doesn't even do The J.J. Abrams Syndrome correctly. That being said, there are still elements which keep you engaged throughout. In the end, The Cloverfield Paradox is just another generic Sci-Fi film on Netflix. Which is a shame. Just watch 10 Cloverfield Lane instead.
TITLE: I, TONYA
DIRECTOR: CRAIG GILLESPIE
STARRING: MARGOT ROBBIE, SEBASTIAN STAN, ALLISON JANNEY, PAUL WALTER HAUSER
I, Tonya is one of the first film experiences in a long time, where I felt old. I remember all of this stuff vividly. Very vividly (that clip of Nancy Kerrigan was played endlessly over and over again) . This was a big deal, and it also makes a particular moment in the film, all the more poignant. I, Tonya never really preaches, and never really tries to take a side. And the film is all the better for it. Craig Gillespie, does some interesting tricks within the narrative, which helps to muddy the waters a bit. However, it never crosses a blatant line. Which makes the film all the more entertaining. The cast is fantastic here, and they really help the movie along, as the middle section of the film slows down a bit. Surprisingly, I, Tonya, is quite funny. It helps ease some of the real tension, one might have going into the film because of the subject matter. Allison Janney, gives one of the best performances of her career here. It's both funny and heartbreaking at the same time. I, Tonya is a fascinating character study, of an "incident" that shook the world. An "incident" in the world of Figure Skating no less. It's a snapshot of a period of time, where 24 hour news and gossip, was hitting its stride. It's a solid go around the rink.
TITLE: THE POST
DIRECTOR: STEVEN SPIELBERG
STARRING: TOM HANKS, MERYL STREEP, BOB ODENKIRK, SARAH PAULSON, TRACY LETTS, BRADLEY WHITFORD, BRUCE GREENWOOD
The Post may not be Steven Spielberg's most snazzy film, but it's definitely one of his most poignant. It's clear that Spielberg, saw this material and latched on to its message. The Post was shot, edited and released, very quickly. While you can't tell the production moved a lightning pace, the message is clear. That aside, the performances by, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, are dynamite. Much like Spielberg's Lincoln, there are moments where it feels like he just turned on the camera, and let Hanks and Streep, do what they do. Both actor's are phenomenal here and the entire cast is solid. There are a few moments where the film slows down a bit and Spielberg, goes a little too nail on the head with some things. However, The Post offers an intriguing look at the power of the Freedom of the Press, and what it means to be a woman in a position of power (at a time that was male dominant). There's no getting around the fact that the film, is exceptionally relevant in today's society. The Post doesn't shy away from it either. It knows what it's doing, and isn't afraid to show it off. It's highly entertaining to watch, as some master filmmakers do what they do best.
TITLE: THE DISASTER ARTIST
DIRECTOR: JAMES FRANCO
STARRING: JAMES FRANCO, DAVE FRANCO, ALISON BRIE, SETH ROGEN, ARI GRAYNOR
For the first time ever, I may have to make an addendum on my top of the year list. Some of us, are of course, not privileged to see some of these films in time. The Disaster Artist, was a tough one for me to find. It didn't go wide until late and for some reason, kept switching around theaters. I was finally able to pin it down and boy, am I glad I did. This film is pure delight. James Franco, gives the best performance of his career in this thing. The entire film as a whole, is so damn entertaining. It's ridiculously funny, and at its core, has a great heart to it. There's an underlying message here that is fantastic, and we can all relate to. You don't have to have seen The Room to get the film either. I literally saw five minutes of the film. Sure, some of the jokes may help if you've seen it. However, just google anything about the real movie, and you can watch the "important" scenes. Bottom line is, this film is fantastic. See it. If you can find it.
Ah, yes. Here we are. It's the end of the year, and it's time to talk once again about my favorites. 2017, was an interesting year in cinema. It was a mixed bag in terms of good, and content. There was a lot of big Hollywood films that unexpectedly became critical darlings.
Full disclosure, there are three films that I missed which if you are looking for them, won't be on my favorites. The Post, Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri will be missing. I just did not have time to see them and some were released a little too late, or not wide enough.
Before we get to the favorites, lets talk about some of the bad.
A FEW OF THE BAD
Before you get to the treasure, sometimes you have to dig around mud.
Loud, headache inducing, loud, colorful, weird, incoherent and loud. The Last Knight is the lowest grossing of the Bay-led Transformers series. The saving grace for this painful series, has always been the amount of money they make despite how dismal they are. This always threatens us with more films. With the first non-Bay directed entry in Bumblebee on the way, and this one's lackluster performance, perhaps... Perhaps we have finally gotten rid of Mr. Bay. One can hope.
Once again, Ridley Scott tries to make a non-Alien film, in the Alien Universe, using the Alien franchise as a hook. Mis-marketed, dull and convoluted to the point of nonsense, perhaps it's time to just let this series die. With word that the Covenant sequel has been scrapped, maybe the powers that be think so too.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
The Last Jedi is a dull, muddled mess of a film. Rian Johnson was given carte blanche to do whatever he wanted. The result is a poorly paced, poorly edited, mediocre melodrama, which uses the excuse of "subverting expectations" for a badly written plot. While it's not as bad as The Prequels, it's damn close. Story points go nowhere, character motivations are downright stupid, and the acting is more wooden then some of the bad CGI. But hey, your expectations were "subverted".
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 2
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, makes the mistake of becoming too much of a comedy show. Sure, the first film had comedy, but it was used where it was needed. In Vol. 2, it gets to be too much and it gets lost in its jokes. Kurt Russell is wasted as Ego and the father plot, is kind of mishandled. In a year where we got 2 and a half MCU films, Vol. 2 is at the bottom.
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, is an interesting and sometimes riveting, war tale. While I am not the best fan of Nolan, this one is kind of perfect for me. His simple story and use of real, tangible sets and effects, only add to the intrigue of the film. Dunkirk is short, sweet, and nicely done. It's Nolan restrained, but at the full use of his power.
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2
The first John Wick, made my top 10 of the year. In any other year, John Wick: Chapter 2 may have made it. It's just too crowded a field. However, Chapter 2 is a white knuckled sequel which ups the ante for the world, and the title character. Keanu, is still perfect for this role, and the film has some of the best action of the year.
Taika Waititi, managed to make a great Thor movie. How? By making a Taika Waititi film. Ragnarok is funny, entertaining to the end and is the best Marvel film of the year. It manages to move the character forward, and injects new life into Thor. Ragnarok is also a nice segue into Avengers: Infinity War. The movie should be seen for Jeff Goldlum alone.
In a year where mainstream horror got some big recognition, it gets no bigger than It. The flick made A LOT of money. It's a solid, often times frightening, creepy and loyal adaptation, of Stephen King's novel. Skarsgard, gives a great performance as Pennywise. It's not a Tim Curry impression, but something of his own making. At the end of the day though, the kids are what make It work so well.
It was rough year for DC. At least, that may be what the critics tell you. Sure, Justice League may have misfired for some. However, Wonder Woman did not. This is the best standalone DC film to date. It has heart, it has action, and may be one of the best origin stories told on the big screen. The chemistry between Chris Pine and Gal Gadot, carry this thing all the way through. The third act may fall into generic territory, but it's a small nitpick to an otherwise outstanding comic book film.
Logan, ends Hugh Jackman's run as Wolverine nicely. I think some people forget this is also Patrick Stewart's last run, as Professor X. Both Jackman and Stewart, give phenomenal performances here. Young Dapfne Keen, is also quite good. Logan is brutal, hard-hitting, different, and thrilling to the end. Literally.
9. WIND RIVER
Wind River is a powder keg of tension and intrigue. Taylor Sheridan, paints a perfect slow-burn, which eventually explodes into something shocking and brutal. Jeremy Renner, gives what may be his best performance, and plays well opposite Elizabeth Olsen. This is a film that unravels slowly, but pays off in more ways than one.
8. GERALD'S GAME
Yeah, yeah, It came out this year. However, this is the better Stephen King adaption. It's not as flashy as It, but it's much more effective. Adapting King's horror is hard. Now try adapting something that isn't all that good to begin with. Gerald's Game takes one of King's lesser works, and turns it into something special. Minus the last ten minutes, Gerald's Game is perfect. It's tense, unexpected, shocking and gruesome. Carla Gugino, is superb here as well.
7. THE BIG SICK
Funny, quirky and heartfelt, The Big Sick seems to be getting lost as we close the year. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, give two great performances. Kumail Nanjiani, is also surprisingly strong here. There's a scene in The Big Sick, that is downright heartbreaking. It has stuck with me ever since I saw it. There are a few really great messages here too. It is surprisingly very effective.
6. BABY DRIVER
Slick, stylish and fun, Baby Driver is something unique. Edgar Wright, turns something simple, into something that is much more. Anchored by solid performances and solid music, Baby Driver is an experience. In a time where comic book movies dominate, it's nice to see something a little different. When Baby Driver is firing on all cylinders, it's a great ride.
Even before the "surprise", Split is a fantastic film. It is a downright crime that James McAvoy, is being overlooked for awards consideration. With Split coming out so early in the year, it's something that was inevitable unfortunately. McAvoy, is mesmerizing and outstanding here. Anya Tyalor-Joy, is great as well. M. Night Shaymalan, made a good one. A very, very good one.
4. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
There's been some backlash over War for the Planet of the Apes. Sure, there is not real "war". It's mostly just a little skirmish. However, the real "war", is internal. Caesar's struggle with his acceptance of humans, and what they are really capable of is the real war. It could spell the end for his species. War for the Planet of the Apes, is and incredible piece of modern day film making. Serkis, once again shines as Caesar. Woody Harrelson, is a great foe for Caesar as well.
3. GET OUT
Get Out is a fantastic film. Not just on the surface, but beneath it as well. Jordan Peele, balances comedy, horror and social commentary, like someone who has been making these kinds of films for years. Daniel Kaluuya, is fantastic here. Allison Williams and the rest of the cast, are also fantastic. The less said about Get Out, the better. It's fantastic.
2. THE DISASTER ARTIST
Lough out loud funny, charming, solidly acted and immensely likable, The Disaster Artist is superb. James Franco, gives the best performance of his career and his naturally chemistry with is brother, Dave Franco, oozes off the screen. I literally have seen five minutes of The Room, but it doesn't matter. The Disaster Artist works on its own, and is a treat for fans of the original film. This is the first time ever, I have made an addendum to a top 10 list. However, I loved this movie that much.
1. THE SHAPE OF WATER
Guillermo del Toro's adult fairy tale, hits hard. It's stylish, takes bold chances and has a great message. Sally Hawkins, is phenomenal here and her supporting players, are equally as strong. Michael Shannon, is awesome as the foil in this. He turns something that is a bit one-note, into something more. This is a film that is different. There are things that may shock you at first. However, del Toro's masterful direction, pulls you into this film. It's unforgettable and fantastic.
Happy New Year, all!
TITLE: JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
DIRECTOR: JAKE KASDAN
STARRING: DWYANE JOHNSON, KEVIN HART, JACK BLACK, KAREN GILLAN, NICK JONAS, ALEX WOLF, SER'DARIUS BLAIN, MADISON ISEMAN, MORGAN TURNER
TITLE: THE SHAPE OF WATER
DIRECTOR: GUILLERMO DEL TORO
STARRING: SALLY HAWKINS, RICHARD JENKINS, MICHAEL SHANNON, DOUG JONES, OCTAVIA SPENCER
TITLE: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
DIRECTOR: RIAN JOHNSON
STARRING: DAISY RIDLEY, MARK HAMILL, CARRIE FISHER, ADAM DRIVER, JOHN BOYEGA, OSCAR ISSAC
TITLE: JUSTICE LEAGUE
DIRECTOR: ZACK SNYDER
STARRING: BEN AFFLECK, GAL GADOT, EZRA MILLER, RAY FISHER, JASON MOMOA, HENRY CAVILL