Mike’s Unpopular Movie Opinions of 2017

by Michael Henley

So. Hi! How was your year? Never mind; stupid question. I hear ya. Thank god for the movies, when they’re affordable and good, that is. And sometimes they were this year, and sometimes they weren’t. Here’s some random thoughts on the movies of 2017. Keep in mind there’s a bunch of stuff, listed at the end, that I haven’t seen yet, and I’m sorry about that—it’s been a busy year. But anyway. Sometime in the next few days I’ll have my list of the greatest movie moments of 2017. Until then, please enjoy.

  • THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a pinnacle of Martin McDonough’s strengths at blending the offensively profane, the howlingly funny and the touchingly soulful. Best movie of the year. Err, that I’ve seen.
  • Well, it’s not controversial at all to say that LADY BIRD is great. But it is.
  • If you don’t think one the best and most important movies of the year is GET OUT, I don’t know what to tell you. I do not think we’re gonna get along. It’s jaw-droppingly well-made for a first-time director, perfectly-acted, and relevant and biting AF. Also some people have reacted to it in ways that really really makes me look at them funny.
  • Oh, also, Jordan Peele’s audio commentary on the blu-ray of GET OUT is one of the best I’ve heard in a while.
  • The more I think about COLOSSAL, the more I admire how good it is, and I think it’s Anne Hathaway’s single best performance.
  • Was there a more pure and successful little entertainment this past year than LOGAN LUCKY? For my money, no. Steven Soderbergh, we missed you so much. Never stop making movies, please.
  • I finally watched THE MUMMY and it’s maybe one of the worst and most incompetent fucking blockbusters I’ve ever seen. To see Tom Cruise finally break his pretty-strong streak of quality genre pictures is depressing to see. Is there some reason why a no-talent like Alex Kurtzman is allowed to direct movies and yet it took Patty Jenkins 14 years to get to direct one after MONSTER got Charlize Theron an Oscar?
  • OH RIGHT. I JUST REMEMBERED THE GIANT FUCKING REASON.
  • This was the year that I finally realizes that Ryan Reynolds’ sole talent is playing Deadpool in DEADPOOL movies. Nothing else he does interests me. Is this a good time to say I skipped THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD? Sure it is.
  • I….liked ALIEN COVENANT. No, really; I did. I thought it was gothic and spooky and had two strong performances from Michael Fassbender and a strong upgrade from the silliness of PROMETHEUS. People ding it for a bunch of things, especially the escalates-way-fast first birthing sequence, but I thought the panic and terror that Amy Seimetz brought to her big scene was very very tangible.
  • Seriously, though, fuck Alex Kurtzman.
  • Remember how in 2016, whenever a pic of a celebrity showed up on our newsfeed and we worried that they were dead? I love how in 2017 now the best case scenario of a celebrity showing up in the news is that they died.
  • The best comedy of the year is probably THE BIG SICK, which is as smart and real-feeling as most comedies are stupid and fake.
  • Speaking of which, is it just me or are studio comedies, like, really bad right now? Probably the best one was GIRLS TRIP, which wasn’t really good but it does have a really great Tiffany Haddish performance buried in it. Everything else, though? ROUGH NIGHT? THE HOUSE? CHiPS? SNATCHED? BAYWATCH? FIST FIGHT? GOING IN STYLE? Pfft.
  • Oh yeah. Why does BAYWATCH exist? Who was that movie for? I’m pretty sure the funniest joke connected to it has to be when Dwayne Johnson blamed movie critics for its dismal box office performance. You’re better than that, sir.
  • The last time I watched BABY DRIVER was the morning of the Kevin Spacey allegations hitting, so it’s been tough to want to watch that again. My feelings on BABY DRIVER have cooled slightly. I think it’s fun and used the music insanely well, but suffers from an underwritten love story. I love Edgar Wright but I wish the script had gotten one more pass and maybe had gotten an slight dash of Cornetto-flavored wit.
  • I ranked WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES very highly over the summer, but it’s come down a bit for me because now I see it more as a bunch of devastatingly affecting set pieces strung together than a solid story. Andy Serkis continues to be incredible in these movies.
  • Saw THE BELKO EXPERIMENT and as horror comedies about offices go, it was just diet, caffeine-free MAYHEM.
  • SPLIT isn’t the worst movie M. Night Shyamalan has ever made, but I found it frustratingly weak sauce. It’s got a nasty exploitative edge to it, and it feels like a gimmick movie in search of a story…that instead just finds another gimmick.
  • That said, I’m super excited for GLASS.
  • COCO clearly wins the best animation this year, and it’s great, but this was not a stiff year for competition. BOSS BABY? Yeah, no, fuck you.
  • THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE was cute and funny but I still register my complaint from earlier this year…why have all those comedians and celebrities playing the Batman rogues gallery and give them each a line apiece. At least Jenny Slate had more to do as Harley Quinn, but…Billy Dee Williams? Ricki Lindhome AND Kate Micucci? Conan O’Brian? Jason Mantzoukas? Zoë Kravitz? What was the point? Granted, I’m happy Doug Benson got to use his Bane voice.

 

  • GEOSTORM was goofy, stupid fun. Shameless plug now for the episode of Andrew Makes a Case that I guested on, in which we had a great time dissecting the intricacies of GEOSTORM.
  • If you still think Robert Pattinson is a joke after his amazing performance in the brilliant GOOD TIME, I don’t know what to tell you.
  • I’m scanning the Wikipedia of “Movies in 2017” and I just learned that there’s a movie called THE CASE FOR CHRIST. But I’m decidedly disappointed to learn it’s not about Jesus buying some luggage.
  • Does anybody remember PIRATES 5? Disney, nobody asked for this.
  • I skipped BRIGHT. I watched MUDBOUND instead. MUDBOUND is really really really good.
  • THE DARK TOWER deserves a whole textbook to be written about it. “How Hollywood Destroyed a Can’t Miss Stephen King Property and Wasted So Much Money Doing It.” Or something. I dunno, I’m no textbook-title-maker-guy.
  • MOTHER! is a movie that is not interested on anything but a metaphorical level but I think it’s kinda great. It at least has the most batshit insane third act of any movie I’ve seen this year. And how well-directed it is! And do we all hate Jennifer Lawrence now? I still like her and I think she’s next-level good in this.
  • BLADE RUNNER 2049 is one of the best of the year, and it is a better movie than the original. Don’t @ me. Sorry not sorry.
  • Is there some reason that KONG: SKULL ISLAND felt the need to put together such a ridiculously overqualified cast for B-movie schlock? It was fun B-movie schlock but surely, say, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston and John Goodman (for starters) have something better to do.
  • Hot take: FREE FIRE (Ben Wheatley’s low budget indie about a weapons deal that turns into a shootout, and that’s the movie) is the kind of gimmick-first content-free splatterfest that gives wacky low-budget auteurs a bad name.
  • There’s a sequence halfway through ATOMIC BLONDE that is amazing. The rest of the movie is OK at best.
  • I think Disney’s live action remakes of its animated features work best when it tries to distance itself from the source material. But that wasn’t possible with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, which tries so hard to replicate via live action and CGI something that went so well in animation. The result is something labored and heavy. Oh, and also, the problem with many of the songs is not that Emma Watson can’t sing (although she can’t), it was the digital assistance to make her voice palatable; I’d rather hear someone earnestly singing when they can’t sing rather than a voice AutoTuned to death.

 

  • I haven’t written a review of STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI yet, because thanks to the past two weeks I’m kinda sick of talking about it. Besides, does anybody need another review of LAST JEDI at this point? Okay, I loved it. It’s great. Everything that people say it does sloppily and accidentally, I say it does on purpose and with fantastic results. Maybe I’ll write about it later.
  • LADY MACBETH rocks.
  • JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 is so very very good. And I think it’s the best action movie this year.
  • I heard KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD is only 1/3 of a movie, so I only gave it a 1/3 chance of actually being seen by me. Guess what? I didn’t see it. Guess what else? They’re not making the other 2/3. Everybody wins!
  • I still can’t believe that Kenneth Branagh hides Michelle Pfeiffer’s important character introduction in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS within a showy tracking shot from the outside of the train, as the characters move through it, their faces intermittently obscured. Oh, it’s to show off the geography of the train? The train has a lounge car, a dining car and a sleeping car. That’s it. It’s not a flipping medieval battlefield, Kenneth.
  • THE DISASTER ARTIST would have been way better if it had added more stories from Greg’s book, but I understand why they didn’t. Really really enjoyable movie, but I wonder how it plays for people who have never heard of THE ROOM. Also, I can’t believe a studio gave James Franco money to recreate (down to the smallest detail) scenes from THE ROOM.
  • A GHOST STORY is as lyrical and beautiful as a movie can be, despite the central visual conceit (Casey Affleck with a sheet over his head) not working for me one bit. Stay tuned for my “great movie moments of 2017,” which will probably be just the “Rooney Mara eats a pie in real time and sinks further and further into despair” scene listed over and over again.
  • I’m only half-kidding.
  • I skipped TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT, but the incredulous Double Toasted review of the movie (“Harriet Tubman was a transformer?!?!”) is one of the best laughs I’ve gotten all year.

 

  • VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF THOUSAND PLANETS is baffling and bizarre and has terrible sexual politics and has the single worst leading man performance I’ve seen in the past several years (Dane Dehaan’s blank Keanu Reeves impression), but damn it I liked it’s goofiness and energy and world-building. That multidimensional marketplace scene is amazing, and I thought Cara Delevigne tapped into the movie’s nuttiness, like when she does this formal, rapid-fire greeting to an alien platoon and then just tosses off her partner’s intro: “Oh, this is Valerian.” (Oh, and the opening title sequence, showing cultures coming together and building something great, is so what I needed to see this year.)
  • IT COMES AT NIGHT is a bleak, bleak movie about awful people doing terrible things and paying for it. I like my post-apocalyptic thrillers to have a dash of hope and a wrinkle of irony or humor, and this had none. It was well-made, though.
  • KINGSMAN 2 is the DIE ANOTHER DAY of Kingsman movies, which is unfortunate because we’ve only had two Kingsman movies so far.
  • THE SHAPE OF WATER is Guillermo Del Toro’s very best movie, and yes, I don’t say that lightly.
  • INGRID GOES WEST is a great movie and a sharp satire of toxic social media. It’s one of the rare films that knows how to use Aubrey Plaza; it practically weaponizes the things she always does that I’ve grown tired of. But I honestly think the harder role was Elizabeth Olson’s; in the middle of this stinging satire she has to play a bubble-brain that still has to register like a real person, and she does.
  • Sorry, Woody. I skipped WONDER WHEEL. Probably was a bad time for you to release a movie, eh? Also, I heard it was bad.
  • WIND RIVER is a solid movie with a great performance by Jeremy Renner. But it repeats a lot of stuff from earlier Taylor Sheridan movies, and by god, that third act is just ludicrous. Come on, now. Really? Killed it for me.

 

  • The funniest behind-the-scenes movie story of the year is that they remade FLATLINERS, and got Kiefer Sutherland to reprise his role, but then they cut the scene that explains that because the studio realized that nobody cares about either version of FLATLINERS.
  • COMICS CORNER! JUSTICE LEAGUE is actually way way way worse than BATMAN V. SUPERMAN, because it’s not even its own movie; it’s a hodgepodge of junk made by a corporation and fueled by company notes. (Also: what was the point of enlisting flipping Aquaman, given where the end of the movie takes place?) LOGAN is pretty strong; that’s not controversial, but I feel it’s a little shy of greatness. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING was super fun but I think it works way better as a high school comedy than as a superhero epic—that stuff, aside from one scene that takes place in a car, was fairly stale. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2: cute and weird, but man the story is thin; I liked Zoe Saldana’s facial reactions to everything the best. THOR RAGNAROK was perfunctory in its first act, tons of fun in its second, a mix of the two in its third.
  • WONDER WOMAN deserves its own section. I liked WONDER WOMAN. That is, up until its way-too-busy climax. But I liked it a lot and I thought Gadot gave a great performance. I also don’t think it deserves much awards recognition. I really don’t think any superhero movie in the history of the genre has deserved awards recognition. But still, WONDER WOMAN was really good and Patty Jenkins directed the heck out of it.
  • I’d say IT is the best studio horror film of the year, but its greatness aside, it has no competition. What, RINGS? THE BOY? GTFO of here with that.
  • Important movies from this year I still need to see: “Battle of the Sexes,” “The Florida Project,” “Happy Death Day,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “I, Tonya,” “The Post,” “Hostiles,” “Phantom Thread,” “All the Money in the World,” “Molly’s Game.”
  • I have seen none of the things listed directly above yet. But I did see GEOSTORM.