5.) “A Cure For Wellness”
Watching the trailer for “A Cure For Wellness,” I found myself continually asking myself: “Didn’t Martin Scorsese make this movie in 2010?”. I despised the idea of watching this film, comparing it of course to “Shutter Island.” When I finally sat down to watch the movie one rainy night, however, I was shocked to find how totally engaged I was with this horrific period piece. Gore Verbinski’s spiritual sequel to “The Ring” is an engrossing, terrifying, sprawling gothic opera. A mash-up of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and the 1925 version of “The Phantom of the Opera.” The last half is totally bonkers, and one scene makes dental work somehow even more upsetting than “Marathon Man.” Swim with the eels, my friends.
4.) “Girls Trip”
I cannot think of the last comedy that made me laugh so hard so often. There are two moments I can think of (one involving a hotel window and the other involving a zip-line) that literally made me cry laughing. This is a case of a movie not on my radar at all, and immediately jumping to top 15 comedies of all time in my mind. The cast is charming and hilarious and the story, while featuring over the top gags and jokes, is full of heart and surprising emotion. You’ll never look at a grapefruit the same way again.
3.) “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond- Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton”
I’ve always been a sucker for a good showbiz doc, and that’s exactly what I expected to get out of “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond” when I clicked play on my Netflix queue. What I got instead was an in-depth look at the soul of an artist and the toll it takes on those around them. The making of “Man on the Moon” is fascinating, and Jim Carrey’s performance/performance art in both the film and the behind-the-scenes footage is exhilarating and dangerous. The film features several scenes that left me speechless, and the old footage narrated by present-day Jim Carrey makes this film a must see. “Thank you very much.”
2.) “Ingrid Goes West”
“Nothing in the entire world could interest me less than a movie about an Instagram celebrity” Nick snarled to himself. But then there I was, in the theatre. Why? Elizabeth Olsen of course. This is a movie that sounds like a terrible idea until you see it, and then you realize what you were missing when you judged it. This felt like a quintessential film for our times. “Ingrid Goes West” is among a very small group of recent films that truly understand social media and how it affects the minds of everybody on our planet. This movie doesn’t have clichéd opinions and there are no simply good and bad characters. Aubrey Plaza breaks the mold once again as the terrifying but charming Ingrid Thorburn who finds a new life in California and a new obsession in Instagram model Taylor Sloane. It’s a hilarious, scary, and heartbreaking movie that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. #IAmIngrid
1.) “Gerald’s Game”
2017 has had its fair share of Stephen King adaptations. The dull “The Dark Tower,” Netflix’s scary but forgettable “1922,” and of course the phenomenal big screen adaptation of “It,” but none of those left me as shaken, terrified, and dying to rewatch like Mike Flanagan’s “Gerald’s Game.” This movie, like all movies released by Netflix (except for “Bright” for some reason), appeared out of nowhere. One day it wasn’t on and the next it was in my recommended flicks. Being a fan of Flanagan’s “Hush” and “Oculus” and having heard some crazy things about the book, I was pretty excited to watch this newest adaptation. But Gerald’s Game surpassed every one of my expectations landing it the #1 spot on my biggest surprise of 2017. The film is gruesome. The film is terrifying. And most importantly, the film is rewarding. The way Flanagan took Jessie’s (Carla Gugino absolutely killing it) inner monologue and made them outward apparitions was genius. And the scenes with the Moonlight Man will forever be burned into my brain as one of the scariest things I’ve seen on film. Much like “Bone Tomahawk,” this film has a scene that is easily identified as “THE scene” that caused a million squirms. Check out “Gerald’s Game” on Netflix now.
5.) “The Discovery”
Netflix has made 2 appearances so far in releasing some of my biggest surprises of 2017, but to even it all out they are also featured twice on my biggest disappointments of 2017. The premise and cast for “The Discovery” are so spectacular that when it came time to release it early last year, I couldn’t wait. Pair that with the director of one of my all-time favorite movies “The One I Love” and I was practically salivating at the thought of this movie. The afterlife discovered, mass suicides, Robert Redford as a genius scientist, ROONEY MARA! What could go wrong? Well, (like a lot of films on my list of disappointments) not much. Technically speaking, “The Discovery” is a fine film. It certainly has its problems, the ending in particular, but it keeps you engaged enough to want to find out the answers. But when the credits rolled I felt nothing. It was a completely empty experience for me. The performances and the cinematography are top-notch, but overall “The Discovery” is a film better left undiscovered (ooh pun).
4.) “Ghost in the Shell”
Oh, the potential. “Ghost in the Shell” is the most boring blockbuster I’ve seen in years. What could have been an exciting live-action adaptation of a classic anime and manga became a beautiful-to-look-at slog. Scarlett Johansson gives the worst performance of her career in a completely incomprehensible mash-up of rehashed sci-fi tropes and half-baked action sequences. If the story could have matched the visuals and the marketing, we could have had a new sci-fi classic on our hands. But instead, when the film ended I wondered if I’d ever remember the experience of watching this movie, and unfortunately for me, I do.
3.) “Death Note”
Netflix strikes again. While I’ve never been a big fan of the original “Death Note” series, I was extremely excited for this adaptation. Yes, much like “Ghost in the Shell,” the film was shrouded in controversy, but show me a good time and I can be a pretty forgiving audience member. Adam Wingard has made 2 of the best genre movies of the past 10 years in “The Guest” and “You’re Next.” Hell, I’ll admit it, I even really liked his crazy “Blair Witch” sequel. But boy oh boy did this movie go wrong somewhere. Completely wasting Willem Dafoe and Lakeith Stanfield, Death Note is boring, long, and just plain stupid. If we’re all being honest with each other here, this is the only movie of 2017 that I began but did not finish. I had a half-hour left and was so uninterested that it was turned off with no resolution because none was needed. Hopefully, Adam Wingard can redeem himself with his next feature, a Kong vs. Godzilla monster flick. Until then, let’s all just rewatch “You’re Next” and pretend this adaptation was never written down.
2.) “Beauty & The Beast”
I know. I KNOW. But let’s be honest, this was a very expensive and soulless carbon copy of a better movie. The animated “Beauty & the Beast” is a beautiful classic, with rich characters, humor, terror, and a great love story. 2017’s “Beauty & the Beast” has all of the same things, but in a much less interesting way. This is a movie with nothing new to say, other than “Look, in this one, some of the things are real!” After the genius remake of “The Jungle Book,” which paid homage to the original classic while stating its own purpose through rich storytelling and exciting new visuals, I was on board with these live-action retellings. “The Jungle Book” never made me wish I was watching the original cartoon because it invested me in its new way of telling the same story. 2017’s “Beauty & the Beast” invested itself fully in reminding me how much better the original Academy Award-nominated movie was at telling the same story. Not even the visuals impressed me, with the silverware cast looking ugly and undefined and the CGI Beast looking laughable. The only saving grace is the amazing cast, led by the beautiful and charming Emma Watson who tries her best to differentiate her Belle from the 1991 version. For me, it was just not different enough.
1.) “The Belko Experiment”
Watching the trailer for the James Gunn-written “The Belko Experiment,” I felt it had the potential to be this year’s completely off-the-wall, bloody and mean movie. What we got instead was a pretty standard and predictable murder flick with zero ambition and zero original ideas. I also truly believe that John Galagher Jr.’s character is the single stupidest character of 2017. His options are often obvious, and instead, he chooses the most boneheaded choice every time, making it frustrating to watch the film frame him as the hero of the story. I kept waiting for the movie to kill him off and reveal that we were being tricked and now a new more relatable character is the actual hero. But nope. That never happens, and instead, I stare at the screen wondering why I wasn’t watching something more interesting happen. The Belko Experiment doesn’t even live up to it’s fun, bloody premise! The kills are lackluster, a large portion of them happening with guns, and very rarely is anything office related used. If you promise us a murderous “Office Space” you better deliver copy machine crushes and staple gun attacks. “The Belko Experiment” is disappointing on every level, making it my #1 disappointment of 2017.
What was your biggest surprise of 2017? Biggest disappointment? Comment below with your thoughts.