I have been promising this list for the better part of 3 months already. Bullshit, since the ending of 2017. I am not going to lie, I’ve been putting it off. I keep seeing a new film that hits me in a profound way. Worrying if I need to revise my list. Then I thought, this is what every person who reviews movies go through. I need to stop thinking I am making some mistake and just get on with it.
I wanted to make this as difficult as possible. I wanted to have a hard time deciding what films to include. I originally went from 10, to 7, & have now rested on 5. I got exactly what I asked for… It was fucking difficult. Well, here it is. I didn’t make an episode on it ( which would have been so much easier). I thought an article would have a better feel to it. I’ll announce the list in some form on the show. Now, let’s get this shit started.
BLADE RUNNER 2049
This is a film I was insanely hyped for. I didn’t have to wait as long as other fans who have been praising this film since its initial release in 1982. No. I got into Blade Runner fairly recently, 2012/ 2013 maybe. I wanted to see it when i was a kid. The name sounded so cool to me. When I said I wanted to see it, My older sister told me it was about a barber. Who runs from person to person giving haircuts, while singing.
I feel she did me a favor. If I would have seen the original, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it. The voice over, slow pace, and that saxophone at my typing agree would have probably turned me off. Someone suggested I watch it. Gave me strict instructions to watch The Final Cut. I bought a bluray that only contained that version of the film. I feel in love. It felt like adult Sci Fi. Are their odd scenes? Yeah, but I feel that it’s apart of its charm.
Then I read a report that a sequel was in development and that Denis Villeneuve was going to helm the project. I liked what he did with Sicario. I didn’t like Arrival. But I knew this was going to be a perfect fit. Then you read the fine print. Roger Deakins is the cinematographer, The budget is massive, and they are giving him artistic freedom. Lastly his now legendary quote, ” I did it so nobody else fucked it up”. I was excited.
The film is gorgeous. The team of Deakins and Villeneuve is a perfect one. I feel they understand each other. Everything from the color palette to those gorgeous wide shots. The attention to detail. Dust in the cockpit, a simple glass. Its the smaller touches that make the world convincing and bring it to life. The film was done with care. Picking up 30 years after the original, I dig where the story went and how it played out.
Ryan Gosling did a great job in the lead. His relationship with his AI, I felt was more genuine than relationships that typically play out on-screen, Raw emotion. What it means to have a genuine connection with someone, regardless of their origin. It was beautiful. The way it links itself to the original is so well done and thought out. Everything from the story, to the computers, to the ” Test”. Nothing seems shoehorned in.
The score is another example of taking the original, keeping the essence of it while creating something entirely new. Hans Zimmer just didn’t make a score that harkened back to the 80’s. But gave us an emotional journey. Being soft during intimacy. But bombastic and harsh when seeing what the world has become.
This is not a film for everyone. I don’t know how they convinced the studios to sign off on this. $150 million budget, plus marketing. To do an Art House film? To invoke and be true to the original? When it was released in 1982, it was a failure. I dont know how they did it, but I’m glad they did. Villeneuve is becoming one of my favorite directors coming up in Hollywood, and he made a masterpiece of mature Science Fiction.
See how closely each film looks & feels to one another.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut ( 1982, Revision 2007)
Blade Runner 2049
I struggled with this one. Not that it wasn’t a worthy inclusion to my list, Oh no. I had a battle. Two actually for spots on this list. Baby Driver vs Blade Runner 2049, and Logan vs Wonder Woman. It was tough. So I broke it down like this… Which did I enjoy more? When thinking about Wonder Woman, It is difficult to separate it from its cultural impact. If you listened to any episode of the show, you know I loved Wonder Woman, and if I was making a Top 7, It would be on the list.
Logan is the best superhero movie of 2017, Period. I have no doubt it will go down in history as one of the greats of all time in the genre. The closest comparison is The Dark Knight. Logan from start to finish is flat of brilliant, fearless filmmaking. If this is to truly be Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine, What a fucking swan song.
For years Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine. When I first seen X- Men back in the day, I liked him. As the series progressed I, along with the rest of the world could not picture anyone else playing Wolverine. As good as he was through all the films, No director ever took advantage of him. This could be the way Fox is ran though. They love sticking their noses in the creative process.
Hugh Jackman is a world-class actor. If your only exposure to Hugh Jackman has been X – Men, take a look outside of the series. The Prestige, Prisoners, or The Fountain showcase Hugh Jackman’s talent as a top-tier actor. I was not thrilled when I heard James Mangold was coming back to direct after The Wolverine. While I did like that film in comparison to the previous entry, That is not saying much. The first is a horrible mess of an origin story to one of the most prolific and tragic characters in the X – Men canon even Marvel as a whole.
While the story may borrow ( Heavily) from the game The Last Of Us, It is done with reverence. Mangold takes full advantage of Jackman’s range as an actor and uses it to push the limits of what a Comicbook or Superhero film can be. Push the limits on what categories most people tend to put movies in this genre. A gut wrenching drama about an estranged father protecting his child. A man at the end of his life, tourcherd by his past, Living in exile and just waiting ( and wanting) to his life to end.
While Jackman put on an Oscar worthy performance, This film would not be quite as powerful without its supporting cast rising to the same level as Jackman. Patrick Stewart who is his every opposite from his characters past. Showing the culmination of the journey this character has undergone over these past films. Often times Patrick Stewart steals scenes with ease. Which leads us to newcomer Dafne Keene. She is cute, and does most of her acting through expression. She does not say a word until well past the halfway point. She is every bit effective as Jackman, and Stewart.
With all of them coming together, you see the bond create, mature, and solidify within its 2 hr 17 min runtime. Most films have trouble conveying a convincing connection with just 2 characters across multiple films. That is what makes Logan such a great film. Often times you can see the twists, turns, & emotional beats in the film, and it still hits you. That is the work of a great filmmaker working with a great cast.
Yes there is action, blood, and explosions, Yet somehow that all feels secondary. Nessasary to push the story forward. In a typical film in this genre, it’s usually the other way around. Have a dramatic moment here, then some tension there, that will get it to the next action set piece. When I first seen the film I was impressed. Each time I revisit the film, I feel more attached to it. I don’t think all Superhero or Comicbook films should strive to be Logan, Weather an action/comedy or a space opera, I do feel they should be taking the same steps to take it just as much care.
It helps that Logan had one of the greatest trailers ever. Captures the tone, & emotion like very few trailers have done before. The Johnny Cash cover of Hurt by Nine Inch Nails is one of the finest exaples of a song conveying an entire film, in just a few short verses.
Logan ” Hurt” Trailer
Late 2016 a report came out stating that Aaron Sorkin was to adapt the book, Molly’s Game into a screenplay for a feature film. I really didn’t care. The same report continued in stating that this will be Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut. I still really didn’t care. It’s not that I don’t find Sorkin a skilled writer, I think he’s brilliant. I just genuinely didn’t give it a second thought after reading it. If you are unfamiliar with the name Aaron Sorkin, he is responsible for writing The Newsroom for HBO ( Personal favorite), A Few Good Men, Steve Jobs ( Danny Boyle & Michael Fassbender), The Social Network & The West Wing. So the dude is talented.
A few months later Jessica Chastain got attached as the lead, Now I was paying attention… Sort of. Zero Dark Thirty is a film I could watch repeatedly due not only to Katherine Bigelow’s masterful direction, but also Chastain’s performance. She has a great screen presence. I had this feeling that Molly’s Game was going to be released under the radar, without any fuss. Then go directly to VOD after a short stint in the theatre. I don’t know why I felt this way. Maybe due to the fact i was not very excited about the film.
The book is about Molly Bloom. A woman who started a private poker game that ended up attracting everyone from the Hollywood elite to top musicians to titans of industry and actual royalty. Her experiences in and around the game during that time. The film however, takes elements from the book and works them into the movie, but pans out to see the reprocusions that a lot of her decisions she made had lead her. The film is much better off for it. Some of the best scenes in the film are away from the actual events of the book.
Within the first 5 minutes of the film you get a summary of how her life lead her to run a poker game of this size. In those 5 minutes you get an introduction to the main character, her motivations, some history into her past that will shape her attitude as an adult, and why the fuck she went from Olympian to running an elite card game for the top 1%. It does a perfect job of having you fully understand what type of film you are about to watch. I absolutely love when a film could do that properly.
Idris Elba & Jessica Chastain melt into their roles. Its fun watching them feed off of each other. I know Chastain can lead a film after Zero Dark Thirty. Here she proved that is wasn’t a fluke. Sorkin has a bright future in directing and I hope he continues. Like Tarantino who will only direct scripts that he writes, and he does them to great effect. Sorkin has done something very simaular here. He wrote the words, so he knows how he wants them portrayed. Having talents like Chastain & Elba trusting him is increible to watch.
Sorkin has the confediance that filmmakers usually cultivate over years. Things one learns from project to project. Things that only experiance can teach. There are some mistatakes in the film. Things that I feel are characteristic of a first time director. But those instances are few and far between. After watching this you would not think this is a first time director. It seems he was paying attention while working with greats like Boyle, Finchner, and Reiner.
The writing is smart, and dialogue fast, The acting is sharp and confidant, and The directing is tight and stylish. It is extremely rare for me to go to the theater to watch a drama, I normally feel I could wait to watch them at home. Molly’s Game felt worth my time and money going. I went to see it 3 times. The film is 2 hours and 20 mins. It flew by. I wanted more. I can not wait for the home release so i could watch it again.
Molly’s Game Trailer
JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2
There are 3 types of sequals. The first, Destroy whatever goodwork ( If any) done in the previous film and feel like a complete cash grab. The second, Do enough to push the story forward. Nothing bad, Nothing special, just average. The third is a good film in its own right, but enhances the previous one. Whatever ideas established in the previous film get fleshed out in a thoughtful way. It makes the previous film a better excperiance.
John Wick Chapter 2 in defintaly the latter. Every idea and premise that gets introduced in the first film gets fleshed out and expanded on. The Continental, The rules with in the world, how those same ideas are enforced and presented in other parts of the world. It really is brilliant. Nothing feels tacked on, everything feels lived in. Every idea feels well thoughtout. There is a warning that Winston gives John in the first film ” Dip so much as a pinky back in”. And that begins to resonate as the movie progresses.
There are lots of those. Some large, some small. What I loved about the first film is how serious they took it. When you seen the trailer for the first film, it felt more tongue in cheek. But once you finally sit down and watch it, they took it dead serious. It was emtional, but not overly so. Just enough to fuel your anger so John is justifed in murdering massive amounts of people.
The film reminds of two different action franchises. The Raid, & Taken. In Taken, You can tell they didnt expect the film to do that well. So the sequal was paint by numbers. Rushing it out in order to capatlize on the first ones success. In The Raid, The first film was written after the second. The director had to write a cheaper prequel in order to make the actual film he wanted. So when the second came around, everything was in place perfectly.
Another thing The Raid and John Wick have in common is the proficeancy of its directors. They are not just good action directors, They are legit good directors. From the way they structure their shots, to emotional beats, the pace of the film. Everything progresses and falls into place where it almost seems easy to make a sequel.
The action gets an upgrade as well. The body count of the first film was 77. Chapter 2 is 128. Any movie can put bullets in badguys and call it a day. The style is what sets John Wick apart from other action titles. The world & style blend together so well. You almost want to be apart of it. The currancy, the access to information, bespoke suits that not only look fantastic, but serve a tactical purpose as well. Even the score and music are dripping with care and style. The music, and score are fast and kinentic. Not load and obnoxius.
I would say I wish more films, not just in the action genre, would take thier sequels just as seriously. With this level of care. The first John Wick didn’t kill at the box office but it was profitable. What it did do was generate a shit ton of buzz. Green lighting a sequel was not a bad descion on the part of the studio. Chapter 2 did better buisness than most expected. So a third is on its way, but it will not be coming anytime soon.
This film surprised the shit out of me. I was hoping to get a decent sequel. What I got was so much more. The filmmakers did such a great job setting up this world, that people want to see more of it. Starz has just oredered a series based around The Contienial Hotel. Which has gotten a great response when the series was announced late last year. The earliest we are going to see the third film is maybe 2020. I am fine with that. Annoyed, but fine. If they need to take their time to craft something equally special, by all means take your time. And if you haven’t explored the world of John Wick, you should.
John Wick Trailer
John Wick Chapter 2 Trailer
Tyler Sheridan has cultivated a very impressive resume over a very short period. In 2015 he wrote one of the best films of the year in Sicario. Nominated for 3 Oscars. In 2016 he wrote one of the best pictures of that year in Hell Or High Water. Nominated for 4 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. In 2017 he wrote my pic for film of the year Wind River. And This time he decided to direct.
Wind River doesn’t do anything new. Doesn’t try to. The name of the film isn’t even original. What it does is tell a good story, extremely well. Tyler Sheridan is a very talented writer, but he may be just as talented as a director. The way he introduces characters, story arcs, & exposition feels so natural. The story has no big twist. No grand scheme. It’s a tale about a murder and how the characters go about solving it against the gorgeous backdrop of the Wind River Native Reservation in Wyoming.
Tyler Sheridan only has one previous directing credit. A small horror film called, Vile in 2011. That is what makes him so much more impressive. He handles the project with confidence. Watching Sheridan’s rise reminds me of a lot of Ben Affleck. The way Ben went from being on the Hollywood shit list to one of the towns premiere filmmakers. Gone Baby Gone, to The Town ( One of my personal favorites), To his Oscar win for Argo. I happen to be in the minority that I like Live By Night.
The one thing all three of Sheridan’s films share, Other than the writer obviously, is this balance of violence, dark humor and the limits to which a human can go. Weather if it’s for their life, beliefs & morals, or for the sheer ability to. It’s fascinating. Wind River is a masterpiece of a film. The cinematography, direction, acting and score work perfectly together here. My expectations were insanely high for this. They were meet, & exceeded seemly effortlessly. Elizabeth Olsen does a great job of feeling like a FBI agent out of her depth. The shining light though is Jeremy Renner and Gil Birmingham.
I hate tear jerking movies. This isn’t a tear jerker. It doesn’t even feel like an Oscar bait film. It’s just a genuinely good film. From the moment I put it on, I could not take my eyes off the screen. The hour 47 min run time flew right by. It doesn’t need to be longer. Nothing else needs to be explained. Every scene feels relevant and every line important.
As I get older I find myself looking for great dramas. Not relationship or heart breaking films, Just Good stories told well. I am always surprised and happy whenever I find a new one. Frost/Nixon, Zero Dark Thirty, There Will Be Blood, Spotlight to name a few. These are films I revisit a few times a year. Wind River has now joined that group. I find it just as engaging as satisfying to watch as any other top tier film from a top tier director. A good story, told well.
Wind River Trailer
Well everybody, that is my list. I can’t tell you the struggle it was. I kept beating my head thinking I was making a mistake. I should have put film A instead of film B. Is not including Wonder Woman a mistake. I almost bitched out and put a tie for fifth place or fourth. But ultimately, I had to be decisive, and live with the list I have made. If this podcast is something I choose to do, I should take it seriously. Or else, why would you guys take me seriously.
Write me. Email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or this post. Let me know what your top 5 list was, or What you think I should have included.
I struggled. I really did. But ultimately I had to go with the films I enjoyed the most. These are the other titles that were in contention for the Top 5 list.
A CURE FOR WELLNESS
Obviously there are more. But these are the films I enjoyed the most in 2017. I wanted to add some more films into the Honorable Mentions section, but these titles are the ones that I had the most difficult time trying to place. I would love to hear what you guys think of the list, and what you guys have picked as your Top 5. Email, Instagram, Facebook all that jazz, All @Thecrashbox.