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Zach’s Zany Movie List: TOP TEN FILMS OF 2017…and 40 others because I can.

Ah yes! Finally! After seeing Phantom Thread this weekend I can now finalize and publish my TOP TEN FILMS OF 2017….well, and 40 others that I thought worth mentioning. But the reason it is my top ten list  is because I provide commentary on just those ten about why they are on my ten best of the 2017 list. So if you just want to read about my top ten, scroll really fast through these other 40 and you’ll see that I wrote a paragraph each on the top ones and why they are so special to me, enjoy!

50. The Babysitter

49. The Belko Experiment

48. Kong: Skull Island

47. Girls Trip

46. Mayhem

45. Alien: Covenant

44. The Fate of the Furious

43. Justice League

42. The Foreigner

41. American Assassin

40. Happy Death Day

39. Kingsman: The Golden Circle

38. I, Tonya

37. Darkest Hour

36. The Florida Project

35. Phantom Thread

34. Logan Lucky

33. The Greatest Showman

32. Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle

31. Detroit

30. The Shape of Water

29. The Disaster Artist

28. Only The brave

27. American Made

26. Wonder

25. Thor: Rognarok

24. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

23. Coco

22. Wind River

21. Mudbound

20. Lady Bird

19. Split

18. Better Watch Out

17. Get Out

16. The Big Sick

15. Good Time

14. War For The Planet of the Apes

13. Spider-Man: Homecoming

12. Baby Driver

11. Wonder Woman

AND FINALLY, MY TOP TEN WITH A TINY BIT OF COMMENTARY FOR EACH::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

10. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Probably the most original film of the year. Great script, great story, great ending, great dialogue, incredible acting, unpredictable. All the ingredients to make a more than memorable movie. Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand deserve the Oscars they are probably going to get for this. And Martin McDonough should win for Original Screenplay. I kept switching this and Wonder Woman for the ten spot, constantly, but I ultimately chose this because Wonder Woman’s ending is a little bit of a let down considering all that came before.

9. LOGAN

Easily the best comic book film of the year. I know a lot of you thought Wonder Woman was better but no, Hugh Jackman made this film. His best performance as Wolverine and one of his best performances period. A modern day comic book western that was a visual and mental feast from minute one until it ended. A rated R Wolverine film that everyone deserved. In a sane world, Patrick Stewart would be nominated for playing Professor X in this. But we don’t live in a sane world.

8. HOSTILES

I love Westerns, and even though we could argue that Logan is a true Western, Hostiles is the true western of the year, and the best western since Dances With Wolves. An incredible, unpredictable journey where Christian Bale I thought gave his best performance ever, or at least the best since American Psycho. It is a visual treat from beginning to end and I loved the way the film visited not the right or wrong, but the darkness of the grey of humanities choices. Masterful.

7. THE POST

I knew I was going to like this new Spielberg film but I didn’t know I was going to really really really really love it. I think this is the first Spielberg film I have had on my top ten list since Munich. And it is his best film since Munich. He could’ve just made this a point and shoot affair, but with a smart and snappy script about the Pentagon papers, and with incredible actors like Hanks and Streep, you can tell that Spielberg wanted to be behind the camera, for he shows us all his signature moves and adds a few new ones in the process.

6. IT

Hi ya Georgie! While I can now admit that the film isn’t all that scary, it still is a fantastic film that I can watch over and over due to the almost perfect story adaptation from Stephen King’s book, and the best child group acting in decades. Plus, that first scene with Georgie and Pennywise in the sewer is near perfection. This make the TV special that aired in 1990 look like it was made by film students. I’ve seen this about 4 times now and enjoy it more very time.

5. MOLLY’S GAME

Some of Aaron Sorkin’s best dialogue, and my favorite Jessica Chastain performance since The Help. The story switches back between past and present so seamlessly that it doesn’t treat the audience like they are idiots with stupid “this is whenever” title cards before each scene. For a film that is 2 hour and 20 minutes long, it felt like a crisp 90 minutes. And that is extremely hard to do with everyone being fidgety nowadays.

4. JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2

I honestly thought this was going to be a permanent number 2 on my list since February 2017, but the next three films blew me away even more than this one did. And this is one of the best action sequels every made and so much better than the first film. It does everything a sequel should do. It expands the story and the universe, it ups the action, and it is more fun. Keanu Reeves looks happy to be there and does all his own stunts. And it is honestly probably because he wants to be known for this series when he dies and not just Ted from Bill & Ted. With film #2, he’s already succeeded with that wish.

3. DUNKIRK

Another Christopher Nolan masterpiece. And it is probably because of Han Zimmer’s score. I never thought a PG-13 war film could work, but this one does. And yes, I saw it in 70 mm IMAX when it came out and watching it on video isn’t as breathtaking to be sure, but it is still a masterpiece, a masterful movie to watch over and over again. When the film starts, you grip your arm rests or whatever you have near you and don’t let go until the end credits. The most tense film of the year.

2. BLADE RUNNER 2049

Yes, the first film back in the 80s I believe is highly overrated. Harrison Ford plays a detective that doesn’t really do any detective work, and doesn’t really do much in the story. But this film is better and bigger in almost every single way. It’s a visual masterpiece for the mind, body, and soul, and it happens to accompany a pretty interesting story where Ryan Gosling actually does a shit ton of detective work. When I was in the theater I had just a sense of extreme awe the entire time and I can’t wait to revisit the film again when it comes out on Blu-Ray tomorrow.

  1. STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI

Look, I could defend this film until kingdom come. Oh, you didn’t like Luke’s story did you? Felt like it ruined his character and your childhood did it? Look, that was the only way the story and writer/director Rian Johnson could go after J.J. Abrams set everything up. If Luke hadn’t cut himself off from the force, he probably would’ve had a vision of Han being killed by Ben and would’ve went after him and saved him just like when he had that vision of Cloud City training with Yoda…ah ah ah, I’ll stop, if I don’t I’ll just keep going. This film is a masterpiece and the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. Everything about it is almost pitch perfect, because it does what Luke says, “this isn’t going to go the way you think.” None of it does. Who saw Snoke being killed in part two of the new trilogy? That fight scene with Rey and Ben fighting off his guards is one of the best action sequences in the entire series. The beginning space battle with the bombers to the First Order dreadnought is perfect. The humor did bother me a little bit at first, and the Leia Mary Poppins thing, but I’ve seen the film several times now, and I enjoy it more each time, and those parts don’t even phase me anymore. The ending with Luke and Ben and the “See you around kid” floors me every single time. I love everything about this film, even the journey to Canto Bight. So I don’t mind defending this film until kingdom come. I feel like a young excited kid every time I watch it, and tears well up in my eyes when it ends. It is that great of a film to me, and in the end, the over obnoxious “not my Star Wars” fanboys can go fuck themselves.

Thanks for reading and PEACE OUT!!!!

 

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: PHANTOM THREAD

Finally, a Paul Thomas Anderson film that I can actually tolerate and actually enjoyed and mostly thought was very good. I don’t think I’ve liked a Paul Thomas Anderson film since Punch-Drunk Love and this is his best film since Boogie Nights. To let you know if you can stand to read the rest of this review, especially those Paul Thomas Anderson fanatics out there, I can’t stand Magnolia, The Master, There Will Be Blood, and Inherent Vice (I haven’t seen Hard Eight). And it’s not that his films are terrible. I know I can be accused of calling his previous films ‘beautiful garbage,’ but I think now I can tell you that I can’t stand his films because I just honestly don’t get him. Well, with PHANTOM THREAD, I think I kind of understand him now, other than that I really didn’t care for the 3rd act of this film, especially the last 15 minutes.

But the rest of the film is near note perfect. The acting, the cinematography, the music (oh God yes the music), the fashion, most of the story, everything is really beautiful, and not beautiful garbage, genuinely beautiful. I might need to watch it again to really figure out why the last 15 minutes didn’t work for me, but they didn’t work for me  enough to make me hate or not stand the film (if you check my top 50 list this film is in there, while most of his other films have been on my worst list the year they have come out). I just don’t think the last 15 minutes matched the rest of the film. It tries to pull a kind of a Woody Allen’s Match Point sort of ending, and it trips and stumbles instead of sticks the landing.

Ok, ok, most of you that aren’t cinephiles are probably asking, “what is this movie Phantom Thread?” Well, first of all, it is supposed to be the great actor Daniel Day Lewis’ final film, because he is retiring from acting (we will see how long that lasts, anyone that says that misses it, and ends up coming back in 5 to 7 years). And the movie takes place in the 1950’s, and he plays a OCD dressmaker named Reynold Woodcock, where anyone that is anyone with money comes to him and his sister for them to make a dress for a requested occasion. He goes through women like Tic Tacs, loving and obsessed with them so much at first and then dump them at the first sign of annoyance. But then he meets a waitress named Alma, a woman that tries to permanently disrupt his perfectly tailored life and be the one woman he just can’t get rid of.

That’s about all I am going to say, because if I say any more, I would ruin the last crucial 30 minutes of the film. And like I said, really only the last fifteen minutes I didn’t care for. Paul Thomas Anderson does something that is actually pretty intriguing at first, and the story gets even more interesting than it already was. But then that thing is brought up again and the reactions, decisions, and ultimate climax motivations of the characters take another turn that I didn’t necessarily think matched with the rest of the film. But that’s probably just me. I think it could’ve went a lot of interesting ways, but instead told a too convenient easy, weird, and disturbing way out. Oh well. Like I said, it might work for you. *shrugs*

But the rest of the film is great. The actress that plays Alma (Vicky Krieps) is absolutely sensational, and I don’t understand why she isn’t getting any Oscar buzz this year. Every facial expression, look, and body movement is precisely calculated and she is extraordinary to watch. And of course, if this is Daniel Day Lewis’ final film, he goes out on a high note. He plays the OCD Reynolds Woodcock to perfection. Daniel Day Lewis absolutely sinks into this role, just like he does every other role, and while he did win the Oscar for Lincoln and My Left Foot, I think his performance here is even better. In fact, even though I didn’t like There Will Be Blood, his performance here is on par with that. Masterful. A class act. If this is his final film, he will e truly missed.

And I’ll repeat it again, the rest of the film is quite beautiful and sometimes even mesmerizing and hilarious. England in the 50s is shot to perfection. There is this scene where Reynolds and Alma try to get one of his dresses back from this debutante who is being a bit of a ditsy drunk at her own wedding and is disrespecting the dress. It is my favorite scene in the film and that and a handful of other scenes are just that great to watch. It is just a shame those last 15 minutes didn’t work. Otherwise it could’ve been higher and maybe even hit my top ten list. But I think the real breakthrough here is that I didn’t hate another Paul Thomas Anderson film. I don’t know what it is to you, but to me its a miracle among modern science. It is almost like me not thinking a Uwe Boll is terrible. BAHAHAHAHAHAHA, sorry about that will never happen.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE COMMUTER

At this point, could we all just say that Liam Neeson is the higher quality Chuck Norris? I’m frankly surprised their are not as many Neeson jokes/memes/gifs as there are Norris by now. Not counting A Walk Among The Tombstones, Mark Felt, and The Grey, you pretty much know what to expect when walking into a Liam Neeson high-octane action pic. You have your high end ones, like Taken, you have your low end ones, like the Taken sequels, and then you have your very enjoyable turn off your brain middle fare, such as Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night. Thankfully, THE COMMUTER is in that latter category.  What is a little funny about this movie pun wise, is that the movie is actually two thirds really really strong before….derailing into lunacy in its final act. But even the derailment is fun and combined with the entire journey, I had a pretty good Neeson of a time.

This honestly could’ve been a sequel to Non-Stop, and I don’t understand why it wasn’t. If you don’t know what Non-Stop was, it was basically Liam Neeson as a air marshal trying to find a potential terrorist on a airplane. The entire movie took place on said airplane, and spoiler alert, Neeson survives the movie. In The Commuter he plays an ex-cop that just got fired from his insurance sales gig he had for ten years, only to be offered by a mystery woman (played by Bates Hotel’s Vera Farmiga) who offers him $100,000 to find a person on a train before a certain stop and tag his/her luggage with a GPS device. So why couldn’t they have said he was an ex-air marshal and just make this a cool little sequel to Non-Stop, ten years later? Who knows, and I guess who cares? I mean, with Liam Neeson’s good but very typecast acting, he basically plays the same character in all these movies (with the except of the three non-actioner movies I mentioned in the first paragraph).

But the movie is fun. It’s fun to watch Neeson using his authority cop like special skills to try and find this specific passenger and I did enjoy several of the mid act twists that I didn’t see coming. The acting and some of the situations with the other passengers get to be a little on the ridiculous side with some of the “secrets” they are hiding, especially in the third act, but all is forgiven because the movie is a solid entertaining 1 hr and 44 minutes that doesn’t let up. And the third act does get a little Looney Tune-y action wise and a couple of more plot twists are thrown at you that I saw coming from minute one, but as that stuff usually bothers me with other films, there is just something about a Liam Neeson actioner where I just put my hands behind my head, relax, and just say, “I’m smiling, I’m having fun, I just don’t give a fuck.”

I mentioned that Vera Farmiga is in this movie above, but if you are going to see the movie because you are a fan of her, word of warning. She is only physically present in two scenes and then is a voice on the phone the rest of the movie. It screams paycheck and that she was on a lot filming something else close by. Sam Neil is relegated to a shock cameo status and Patrick Wilson has a bit more to do but seems like he was on autopilot, phoning it in. But Liam Neeson actually looks like he wants to be there this time. He does his Neeson thing but everything about his performance, while typecast, was enjoyable and believable.

So if you want a good time at the movies for a January, which is usually a dump month studio movie ground for shitty films (except for the ones released limited in December and expand in January), this film is for you. For its bug fuck nuts craziness and fun factor, I would compare this film to the third XXX feature with Vin Diesel that we got last January. To enjoy these kinds of films, you just have to turn your brain off and try not to decipher and pick apart everything for one time out of the year. 2017 was XXX The Return of Xander Cage, 2018 is The Commuter.

 

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: HOSTILES

HOSTILES is easily the best Western since Dances With Wolves. It also ranks as one of my favorite westerns of all time, including other films such as 3:10 To Yuma (the remake), True Grit (the remake & original), The Outlaw Josey Wales, Django Unchained, The Quick and The Dead and Unforgiven. While there are hundreds of movies of what is right and what is wrong, this film takes it to the next level by also exploring the deep darkness of grey in between. Christian Bale also gives his best performance since The Figher and may I even say it is up there as maybe his best performance ever for me. This western tale is gritty, its unpredictable, its journey is dark and takes you places you didn’t think you would go, it tugs at your heart strings and won’t let go, and the final shot left me with some choked back tears. It not just making me have to revise my top ten of 2017 list yet again, but it is also making me revise my western masterpiece list.

Since you most likely haven’t seen any promotional material for this film since it was picked up by a distributor so late and at the last minute to qualify for this year’s Academy Awards, let me give you a non spoiler-y run down: All you need to know is that its about a Army captain (Christian Bale) in 1892, that has had the job for the last little while, tracking down rogue Native Americans and jailing them in some fort stronghold.  One of these is a Cheyenne war chief (Wes Studi) that has been jailed for 7 years and by the decree of the President of the United States, as a sort of public relations good faith sort of gesture, orders his release, and for Bale’s Army captain to escort him back to his original native land. Bale is reluctant to do it because this certain Cheyenne war chief and his tribe has killed many of his friends, but for the sake of his pension and future retirement, he does it anyway. He leads a group of troops to get the chief and his family back to his land and along the way picks up a woman who’s family was just slaughter by a rogue batch of Native Americans that show no mercy.

The movie is called Hostiles because mainly the dark path it takes is to show that hostility can come from anyone. Christian Bale’s character, although a good man, is deeply flawed, and his arc in this 2 hour and 15 minute film is not as predictable and you might imagine. Not everything is clear cut. His feelings for certain aspects of what is is doing changes, but he still remembers and respects his original intuitions. It’s not a full 180 character moral flip. His character is fully enveloped in that dark grey between right and wrong and Bale’s way of portraying this character as one trying to sort that grey out into something coherent is astonishingly masterful. Rosamund Pike also delivers one of her career best performances right alongside Gone Girl as that woman with PTSD the entire film of seeing her entire family slaughtered right before her eyes. All of her actions and reactions are painstakingly realistic.

This film is actually a pretty star studded affair. Ben Foster plays another devilish role that basically flashes a “HEY LOOK EVERYONE, WE WERE BOTH IN THAT AWESOME REMAKE 3:10 TO YUMA!” sign but not really as his role, while brief, is a little more complicated than that role in that other fantastic western. Jesse Plemons, Adam Beach, Rory Chochran, Call Me By Your Name’s and Lady Bird’s Timothy Chalamet, Scott Wilson, and Stephen Lang round up the cast. And they all give fantastic performances. The cinematography in this western is amazing as well. The valleys, the mountains, the forests, the landscapes, all captured perfectly on camera to give you that feel you are out in the wilderness in 1892. Every single shot is breathtakingly beautiful to look at.

I love that this film is not just one plot, but multiple B, C, and even D plots as it goes. All of them tie in together quite harmoniously and bring the film to a brutal, calculated, yet unpredictable journey. The film is brutal when it needs to be and doesn’t over complicate or over saturate the plot with needless shots of blood, guts, or other cheap ways to make your stomach churn. Writer and Director Scott Cooper does a fantastic job to relay the right message about humanity without any cheap one-two punches that feel inauthentic to the audience. For example, there is some scalping in the film, but unlike Quentin Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds where it does a long close up take of the scalping to try and for a wince like emotion, here it is fast, to the point, and on to the next scene to show you why some men are savages and hostile.

I just love Hostiles. I was in love with it about 10 minutes in and was crossing my fingers that nothing else let me down. Thank goodness it didn’t. It’s unpredictability floored me to no end. Even though it is a slow boiler it kept my attention aptly for the entire run time. One think to know about me is I love Westerns. LOVE Westerns. Just something about that old time, with cowboys, native americans, shootouts, the vast valley of endless land, the setting that just keeps my attention and absorbs everything it has to offer. I know a lot of people out there that don’t like Westerns, and that is fine. But I encourage you to let go of your hostility and maybe give it a chance even though it isn’t your taste. But if you are like me and appreciate the once in a blue moon fantastic one like this, you are in for a treat.