Women of wonder, iPod toting wheelmen, creepy clowns, a hero named Caesar, a bear named Brigsby and a fish out of water love story earned recognition on my year-end list of film faves. Let’s take a look at the superlatives of 2017.
Baby Driver – Favorite Surprise Film of 2017 – I had no expectations going in and was
blown away by the most stylistically unique films of the year. Amazing editing, stellar character execution, a wonderfully creative script, and a soundtrack worth dancing to – are all brought together in this crime-action-comedy helmed by the wonderful Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”, “Antman”). Watching this film was the most fun I had at the box-office this year.
The Bachelors – Best kept secret of 2017 – One of the best dramas of 2017 features Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons as a widower trying to raise a son alone, while also searching for a new beginning. This story felt true to life and explored the struggles of both father and son as they face loss, the unknown, utter sadness, and the hope that can come from working through those difficulties together.
Brigsby Bear – Most Original Film Viewing Experience of 2017. Imaginative, creative, and charmingly different. This film is not for your average movie goer … so if you’re average … don’t watch it.
Coco – Favorite Family/Animated Film of 2017 – At the heart of the film, it is about family, choices, the power of music, and remembering those who paved the way before us.
Darkest Hour & Dunkirk – Favorite Double feature of the year (WWII style):
Gary Oldman offered a stunning, powerful and emotionally physical performance as Winston Churchill in the “Darkest Hour.”
Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” explores this miracle and “Hail Mary” of a strategy that was unbelievable, unimaginable and bordering on crazy. Nolan’s non-linear storytelling techniques is compete with compelling editing, stunning cinematography, and intense and disorienting music and sound design that supports feelings of fear, the unknown, claustrophobia, hopelessness, dread, and doom.
Get Out – Creepiest Meet the parents film … since “Meet the Parents.” Original, captivating & a lesson that not all things are as they seem. Uncomfortable situations give way to uncertainty, fear, dread and freakiness beyond belief. The elements of humor feel organic and provide a wonderful comic relief in this well-crafted suspense chiller.
The Greatest Showman – Favorite Daddy/Daughter Night Out Movie of 2017. My daughter and I both thoroughly enjoyed watching this musical that was loosely based on the life and times of P.T. Barnum. Wonderful characters, memorable music, and a narrative that challenged viewers to remember that “a life without risks, is a life without adventure. As soon as we left the theatre, we ordered the soundtrack.
I, Tonya – Most Creatively Unusual Biopic of 2017 – For anyone who thinks they know the Tonya Harding story, I say think again. Margot Robbie is award-worthy here, and she provides a raw and emotional performance as one of the world’s best (and most infamous) figure skaters, in a film that is darkly disturbing, twisted, and tragic. It is a tale of dysfunctional relationships, obsession, the lust for power and perfection, and the pains associated with failure and self-destruction. Steven Rogers’ screenplay offers deeply dark comedy, with dialogue pulled from actual newsreel footage breathing life into characters who at times speak directly to the audience. This film was solid on all levels (technical and performance), and the use of classic pop music as a supporting cast member where lyrics represent the scenes and characters added an extra layer of “wow.” Allison Janney (starring as Harding’s mom) gives one of the year’s best impersonations of “The Bad Mother of the Century Award,” and the final scene of this film was pure editing perfection.
It – Favorite Horror Film/Remake of 2017 – This Stephen King classic brought a creepy clown, a wonderful ensemble of young acting talent, and excellent music by the Cult & the Cure to the big screen in a film that perfectly captured the 1980s.
Lego Batman Movie – Favorite Film Featuring Batman of 2017 – Yep, this was more fun than Justice League. It was funny; it offered a great script, and it was full of energy and dialogue that appealed to adults and kids alike.
Logan – Favorite Superhero Film of 2017 – The Wolverine saga (at least with Hugh Jackman) comes to a wrap after 17 years on screen. This film had heart, passion, amazing acting, and a story that explores mortality, aging, life choices, sacrifice, and the legacy we leave behind. This is one of my top ten films (of any genre) of the year.
Molly’s Game – Favorite Film by a New Director – I’ve been a fan of Aaron Sorkin’s writing since 1992’s “A Few Good Men.” His command of dialogue and organic characters is absolutely incredible. With his directorial debut in this 2017’s Molly’s Game, I find myself excited about what next for this Oscar-winner.
The Post – Favorite Prequel of the Year – OK – I cheated here – but Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks is the best film to watch before the 1976 classic “All the President’s Men.” And, if you truly want to dive into the Pentagon Papers, and the Watergate Scandal more deeply, check out Liam Neeson as a bonus in “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House.”
The Shape of Water – Best of Show for 2017. Writer, director, producer Guillermo del Toro brings to the screen a film that blends genres and celebrates the best of the golden age of Hollywood. The Shape of Water combines the classic horror elements of Universal monster films, with a nod to the traditional musical, a taste of Cold War spy pics, and a unique take on beauty and the beast – all captured within a beautiful fish out of water story.
Split – Redemption film of 2017 – Welcome back to M. Night Shyamalan. I’ve followed Shyamalan for nearly two decades, and welcome his return to form in a film that offered wonderful acting by James McAvoy and a story that was twisted, disturbing, and a perfectly executed (and unannounced) sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable.”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Favorite Film to Reignite my Childhood – The Skywalker Universe has been part of my anchored memory since I was 11-years-old. The opportunity to revisit old friends, fly in the Millennium Falcon, hang out with Yoda beside a camp fire, yell like a Wookie, and spar with a light sabre were just some of the reasons this reunion was worth celebrating in 2017.
A Taxi Driver – Most Underappreciated Foreign Film of 2017 – This Korean film is based on a true story and explores the government, citizens, and the media. “A Taxi Driver” looks at the dangers reporters go through in order to get a story & it salutes the ordinary citizens who assist them on that journey. This film offers a compelling narrative, solid acting, wonderful direction, excellent shot selections & perfect musical choices + raw reality.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – Favorite Acting Ensemble – Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell & Woody Harrelson shine in this dark comedic dramedy that was both powerful and challenging to watch at times. Shot in North Carolina, this redemption story addresses themes of love, loss, tragedy, guilt, pain, forgiveness, and how the choices we make impact others.
Thor: Ragnorok – Favorite Comedy of 2017 – From the opening frame to the final scenes, I couldn’t stop laughing at this film. If you’re interested in discovering the true power behind the hammer of the legendary Thor, then you must be willing to journey through time & space with heroes, warriors, Gods, evil Goddesses, zombie soldiers and angry green giants just to get a chance at discovering that answer… what do you mean this doesn’t sound like a comedy.
War for the Planet of the Apes – Best Wrap to a Franchise Storyline – RIP Caesar; you will be missed. Director Matt Reeves fittingly tied up this trilogy reboot with tribute and respect to the original franchise, while also carving out a wonderful and realistic exit for a character who was a true representative for best of humanity (thanks in major part to Andy Serkis).
Wonder – Most Inspirational Film of 2017 – This is a story of perseverance, family devotion, courage, and standing up against oppression. “Wonder” is a marvelous family film, that is well-acted, offers topical themes and great character chemistry. The story is ultimately about looking below the surface and recognizing that what really matters about people is “who” they are and not “what” they look like.
Wonder Woman – Favorite Origin Story – Rich with action, humor, character growth, and an excellent script, audiences witness the birth of an inspirational legend in DC’s best film of the year. Earning over $412 million domestically and just shy of a billion dollars worldwide, this courageous Amazon princess not only saved millions from death and destruction during World War I, but she also gave Warner-Brothers Studios it’s third film to cross $400 million in U.S. theatres. Wonder Woman ended the year ranked number three at the box-office.
Woody Harrelson – Workhorse of 2017 – This guy was busy during 2017. With performances in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing”, “Missouri”, “War for the Planet of the Apes”, “The Glass Castle”, “LBJ”, “Wilson”, “Shock and Awe”, and “Lost on London”, this former “Cheers” bartender has the acting chops to stand beside any Oscar-winning talent, Woody, believe me … everybody in Hollywood knows your name. Kudos on a strong and active year.
– Script by Noel T. Manning II