Marcus’s Top Ten Movies of 2017
I don’t know what it says about me that my favorite movies every year are the ones that make me feel like a big ol’ sack of garbage, but here we are again. Shocking, abrasive, upsetting, and ugly as all hell, mother! is a tour de force display of raw emotion that moved me more than anything I saw this year. I’m a big proponent of knowing as little as possible about a movie before going in, and this is precisely why. I was expecting a run-of-the-mill thriller, and that’s mostly what I got, until about two-thirds of the way through when everything goes batshit. Nearly everything established is thrown out the window in favor of an all-out assault on the senses that rattled me until the credits rolled. It has haunted me ever since.
2. John Wick: Chapter 2
The entire day before I went to see this movie I was smiling. I was so happy that my night was going to consist of nothing more than watching Keanu Reeves kill a ton of people in stylish ways, and I couldn’t have been more pleased once it came time to watch. There’s no shortage of brilliant set-pieces, whether it’s the pulse pounding opening car chase or the nerve-wracking slow crawl through the hall of mirrors, each made with a total mastery of filming hand-to-hand and ranged combat, so far ahead of anything else out there that it’s almost unfair to other action movies. John Wick’s body takes a serious beating throughout the course of Chapter 2, and I’m already giddily awaiting the release of Chapter 3 so that I can get pummeled all over again.
3. Get Out
No film this year speaks more to where the culture is at the moment than Get Out. Not only is this one of the most impressive directorial debuts ever, commercially and creatively, adeptly blending horror and comedy in a unique way to make you uneasy, it manages to bring a whole new respect to the horror genre by bringing back to light its smart focus on social issues. Daniel Kaluuya’s talents cannot be understated, and the warm couple of Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener as the villains is simply genius. Jordan Peele’s got a looooooong career ahead of him, and, as was recently announced, I genuinely can’t think of somebody better to help bring back The Twilight Zone.
Christopher Nolan’s epic take on a lesser-known WWII tale contains some of the most transfixing imagery of the year. On a technical level, Dunkirk is possibly the most impressive film made this year. The muted and limited color palette goes a long way to help sell the hopeless situation that the men at the center are involved in. A race against time, accompanied by a literal ticking clock infused into another memorable Hans Zimmer score, our leads represent three different viewpoints on the war, each as understandable and vital as the last. The dogged fighter pilot going above and beyond to fulfill his duties, the young men doing anything they can to escape, and the unrelated citizens desperate to do anything to help the effort, they each come into play meaningfully when the various threads intersect.
5. Wonder Woman
The year’s best superhero film, and that is saying a hell of a lot with competition like Logan, Thor: Ragnarok, and Justice League. I love Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman for many of the same reasons I love Chris Evans’ Captain America. Both are shining examples of pure wholehearted good, not content with saving some even when saving all is impossible. Gadot’s Diana is always searching to find optimism even when the entire world is at each other’s throats. Chris Pine’s memorable role, as the soldier who introduces Diana to the outside world and fights alongside her, is maybe my favorite supporting performance of the year.
6. The Big Sick
I’m a huge fan of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, from their time hosting the video game podcast The Indoor Kids (bring that back already!) and Nanjiani’s constant welcome comedic presence, so it was a particular treat to see their real-life story recounted so beautifully on screen. Nanjiani plays himself, and do so well, and Zoe Kazan nails Emily, but it’s the couple’s parents, Zenobia Shroff and Anupam Kher, and Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, respectively, who steal the show. I haven’t been this wrapped by a sweet love story in some time, and the film also happens to have maybe the biggest laugh of the year, one that I won’t spoil for anybody who hasn’t seen it yet.
7. Blade Runner 2049
Hard sci-fi at its absolute finest. I could not have enjoyed my time in the rain-soaked streets of Las Angeles or the dusty deserts of Las Vegas more, despite having little love for the original Blade Runner. But this is Denis Villeneuve, a man who has done nothing but one-up himself with his last four films, and he has outdone himself here. Beautiful, slightly-washed neon colors fill the screen as the gloriously roaring synth score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch refuses to let up. I saw this at the theater I’ve been going to for over a decade and I had no idea that they had the ability to produce such booming sound. It’s so effective that I’ve grown disdain for movies that don’t take advantage of it. Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford are just the icing on the cake.
8. Girls Trip
I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun in a movie theatre. I went in the middle of a weekday, a time that in my experience has led to nothing but cold death for a comedy movie, regardless of quality, but not Girls Trip. I had an absolute blast, laughing with the few that were in that theater with me, the main source of my enjoyment being the particularly memorable performance from Tiffany Haddish. Haddish’s brash Dina is a force to be reckoned with, ready to call out her friend’s bullshit but simultaneously the first one to have their backs when things get rough. I’m far from the first to make this comparison, but it’s by far the most revelatory comedy performance since Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids.
9. Alien: Covenant
I am one of the few who loves Prometheus, so I couldn’t have been more excited for Ridley Scott’s follow-up. The xenomorphs factor in to the proceedings less than any other entry in the Alien franchise, but that’s fine. Instead we are treated to some great atmospheric horror and two brilliant performances from Michael Fassbender. Fassbender’s David is a fascinating, tortured synthetic with an apathetic view of mankind and the powers of a god at his disposal. We watch as he struggles with the big questions of life and ultimately succumbs to hatred, birthing a terrifying new alien race. This is the second year in a row a movie has made my top ten mainly because of a great Fassbender performance, and I’m fine with that.
10. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage
I had less than zero interest in seeing the sequel to a Vin Diesel B-movie from over a decade ago that I forgot existed, but I’m glad that I gave in to the subsequent cult hype. Xander Cage’s return has some of the most exciting, freewheeling action I’ve seen, with a script that feels like It was written by a 14-year-old. Unhindered by reality, Diesel skis through a wild forest and does tricks on a motorcycle that turns into a jet ski, while Nina Dobrev and nearly every other woman awkwardly crushes on him like he’s the peak of man. Donnie Yen slides and shoots through hundreds of panes of glass, Rory McCann drunkenly crashes cars, and Toni Collette chews the scenery in a wildly entertaining villain performance. What should have been lucky to even be regarded as a boring, misguided cash grab became something that, as soon as it ended, I vowed to make sure it ended up in my top ten.