Category Archives: Year-end Review

My Year at the Movies – 2018

Action Scenes of the Year (SPOILERS) (see below for One-on-One Fights)

10) Car chase, Ant-Man and the Wasp

9) Battle on Cybertron, Bumblebee

8) Train chase, Paddington 2

7) Chaos on the field, Black Panther

6) Parr House melee, Incredibles 2

5) Battle of Loudon Hill, Outlaw King

4) Helicopter havoc, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

3) Sicily skirmish, Aquaman

2) Thanos fight on Titan, Avengers: Infinity War

thanos fight on titan

1) Bathroom brawl, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

bathroom fallout

Best Films Based on a True Story

The Death of Stalin

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The Favourite

Outlaw King

Tag

 

Best Non-2018 Films Discovered in 2018

https://letterboxd.com/paulstanis/list/best-non-2018-films-discovered-in-2018/

 

My Favorite () Yet

Black Panther, my favorite solo MCU debut movie yet

Bumblebee, my favorite Transformers movie yet

 

Best Heroes or Antiheroes of the Year

10) Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld), Bumblebee

9) Amanda (Olivia Cooke), Thoroughbreds

8) Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), Ralph Breaks the Internet

7) Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), Mary Poppins Returns

6) Helen Parr/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Incredibles 2

5) Shuri (Letitia Wright), Black Panther

4) Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), Solo: A Star Wars Story

3) Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), Mission: Impossible – Fallout

2) The Nurse (Jodie Foster), Hotel Artemis

1) Paddington Brown (Ben Whishaw), Paddington 2

09 Paddington 2

Moments of the Year

15) The table kill, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

14) The beach, Roma

13) Legacy of Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

12) Who’s on the film?, Bad Times at the El Royale

11) Flubbed lines, BlacKkKlansman

10) Back to amber, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

9) A small measure of closure, First Man

8) Chess business, Thoroughbreds

7) The Soul Stone sacrifice, Avengers: Infinity War

6) Death of Bruce Wayne’s parents, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies

5) Disney Princesses in the green room, Ralph Breaks the Internet

4) “Ask me who I am”, Black Panther

3) Han sees the Millennium Falcon for the first time, Solo: A Star Wars Story

2) McGregor’s freak-out at work, Peter Rabbit

1) “Shallow”, A Star is Born

Shallow

One-on-One Fights of the Year (SPOILERS)

8) Grey Trace vs. Fisk Brantner, Upgrade

7) Tobias Beckett vs. Enfys Nest, Solo: A Star Wars Story

6) Ethan Hunt vs. John Lark, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

5) T’Challa vs. N’Jadaka/Erik “Killmonger” Stevens Round 1, Black Panther

4) Tony Stark (Iron Man) vs. Thanos, Avengers: Infinity War

3) Violet Parr vs. Hypnotized Voyd, Incredibles 2

2) Red Miller vs. Klopek, Mandy

1) Arthur Curry/Aquaman vs. David Kane (Black Manta), Aquaman

aquaman david kane black manta sicily

Best Pop Culture References/Allusions of the Year

5) Box office returns, Deadpool 2

4) Hercule Poirot, Paddington 2

3) Paddington 2, The Commuter

2) The Haunted Mansion, The Predator

1) Disney Princesses and Cass Hamada, Ralph Breaks the Internet

Special awards: Blockers, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies

 

Ranking Disney-Distributed Movies (worst to best) 

9) A Wrinkle in Time

8) Christopher Robin

7) Mary Poppins Returns

6) Ralph Breaks the Internet

5) Ant-Man and the Wasp

4) Incredibles 2

3) Solo: A Star Wars Story

2) Black Panther

1) Avengers: Infinity War

 

Best Romance Films of the Year

Book Club

Blockers

Crazy Rich Asians

Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again

Set it Up

 

Sequel Improvement

Ant-Man and the Wasp > Ant-Man

Incredibles 2 > The Incredibles

The Predator > Predators

Ralph Breaks the Internet > Wreck-it Ralph

 

Sequel Decline

Creed 2 < Creed

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald < Fantastic Beasts and where to Find them

Mary Poppins Returns < Mary Poppins

Pacific Rim: Uprising < Pacific Rim

Sicario: Day of the Soldado < Sicario

 

Best Sequel (#2 – Second Installment) of the Year

Paddington 2

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Incredibles 2

Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again

Ralph Breaks the Internet

 

Best Spinoff of the Year

Black Panther

Aquaman

Bumblebee

Ocean’s Eight

Solo: A Star Wars Story

 

Stray Observations

Biggest tearjerker of the year for me is Christopher Robin, particularly the first five or so minutes.

Both The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Suspiria are presented in six acts. (The Favourite has even more.)

First there was Early Man. Then there was First Man.

John Krasinski imperatively communicates through sign language in A Quiet Place. In Aloha, he shared a bizarre scene with Bradley Cooper where they have a subtitled conversation using only subtle shrugs.

Ready Player One is Steven Spielberg’s The LEGO Movie. Ralph Breaks the Internet is Disney’s The LEGO Movie and The Emoji Movie.

 

Most Underrated Films of the Year

The Predator; Book Club; I Feel Pretty; Hotel Artemis

And Death Wish wins my “Pardon One Turkey” award.

 

Best Villains of the Year

10) Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Avengers: Infinity War

9) Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), Creed 2

8) Jatemme Manning (Daniel Kaluuya), Widows

7) Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh), Crazy Rich Asians

6) Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), Peter Rabbit

5) David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), Aquaman

4) Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), The Death of Stalin

3) Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), Paddington 2

2) Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), Black Panther

1) Thanos (Josh Brolin), Avengers: Infinity War

Thanos

Worst Villains of the Year

5) Orm (Patrick Wilson), Aquaman

4) Quinn (Mark Lewis Jones), Apostle

3) Kores Botha (Roland Møller), Skyscraper

2) Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton), Gringo

1) The Wydens (Malin Åkerman & Jake Lacy), Rampage

 

WTF (bad)

Most of Venom

Disingenuous sequel baiting, Tomb Raider

Character retcons, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Independence Day: Resurgence similarities, and Scott Eastwood doing his dad’s voice, Pacific Rim: Uprising

 

WTF (good)

Electric guitar beatdown, The Commuter

The Hokey Pokey, Mom and Dad

Tom Cruise stunt insanity, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Prog-rock album cover imagery, Aquaman

 

(Rough) Final Ranking of All (84) 2018 Films Seen (Best to Worst)

The Death of Stalin; First Reformed; Mission: Impossible – Fallout; Avengers: Infinity War; Black Panther; Searching; Mandy; A Simple Favor; Paddington 2; The Favourite; Solo: A Star Wars Story; Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse; Game Night; Teen Titans Go! to the Movies; Aquaman; Outlaw King; Incredibles 2; Ant-Man and the Wasp; Ralph Breaks the Internet; Hotel Artemis; Book Club; Set it Up; Tully; Roma; Bumblebee; Widows; Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again; Upgrade; Mary Queen of Scots; The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; Blockers; Annihilation; Mary Poppins Returns; Bad Times at the El Royale; Thoroughbreds; Christopher Robin; Crazy Rich Asians; A Star is Born; A Quiet Place; Love Simon; Tag; First Man; Death Wish; Juliet Naked; The Predator; If Beale Street Could Talk; I Feel Pretty; Hold the Dark; Skyscraper; Green Book; Creed 2; Sicario: Day of the Soldado; Sorry to Bother You; Isle of Dogs; Early Man; Breaking in; BlacKkKlansman; Mom and Dad; Peter Rabbit; Disobedience; Vice; 12 Strong; Mary and the Witch’s Flower; Ready Player One; Apostle; Deadpool 2; Bohemian Rhapsody; Overlord; Woman Walks Ahead; Wildlife; Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; The Commuter; Ocean’s Eight; Red Sparrow; A Wrinkle in Time; Beautiful Boy; Venom; Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald; Pacific Rim: Uprising; Rampage; Proud Mary; Tomb Raider; Gringo

 

By the Numbers

Percentage of films viewed that pass the Bechdel Test: 40%

8 Stan Lee appearances – RIP (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Venom, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)

5 Films featuring genetically mashed-up animals (Annihilation, Rampage, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Sorry to Bother You, Venom)

4 Train crashes (Paddington 2, The Commuter, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Mary Poppins Returns) (Special mention to The Death of Stalin’s climax, which features chaos reigning with over 1000 dead because the trains start running again.) (Subverted in Incredibles 2.) (A train also features in the climax of Black Panther.)

3 Films featuring characters called Black Panther (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Gringo)

3 Films with people digging into fried chicken (Green Book, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Vice)

fried chicken

2 Crime films set in a hotel with a heavy 60s-themed soundtrack written and directed by a guy named Drew (Hotel Artemis, Bad Times at the El Royale)

2 Crime films set in Chicago (Death Wish, Widows)

2 Dog food advertisements (Paddington 2, Isle of Dogs)

2 Female villains named Proxima (Avengers: Infinity War, Solo: A Star Wars Story)

2 Films about Scottish agitators to the English throne that open on a flickering candle (Outlaw King, Mary Queen of Scots)

2 Films about secret pen pals, which also uses The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” (Juliet Naked, Love Simon)

2 Films featuring Simon Farnaby and a talking bear (Paddington 2, Christopher Robin)

2 Films featuring voluntary toilet bowl drinking (Peter Rabbit, Aquaman)

2 Films where adult superheroes are hypnotized via screens and younger superheroes have to save the day (Incredibles 2, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies)

2 Foot chases in St. Paul’s Cathedral (Paddington 2, Mission: Impossible – Fallout)

2 Freak-outs taken out on a pool table (Mom & Dad, Tag)

2 Giant crabs (Roma, Aquaman)

2 Households with Julie Walters as a live-in homemaker, Ben Whishaw, and a pantry full of marmalade (Paddington 2, Mary Poppins Returns)

2 Incongruous animals rockin’ out on drums (Ant-Man and the Wasp, Aquaman)

2 Lead characters who have to climb a crane to jump onto a tall structure (Skyscraper, Bumblebee)

2 Long-lost mothers stranded in an isolated zone, wearing bespoke armor (Ant-Man and the Wasp, Aquaman)

2 Nannies who come exactly when needed and leave exactly when her purpose has been fulfilled (Mary Poppins Returns, Tully)

2 Neighbors who constantly try to join the main characters’ game night (Game Night, Christopher Robin)

2 Paddington appearances (Paddington 2, The Commuter)

2 Say Anything… boombox parodies (Ready Player One, Deadpool 2)

2 Suited office boss villains equated to sinister fantasy animals (Christopher Robin, Mary Poppins Returns)

2 Swims with dolphins (Mary Poppins Returns, Aquaman)

2 Tartigrade appearances/references (Ant-Man and the Wasp, Sorry to Bother You)

2 Tesseracts (A Wrinkle in Time, Avengers: Infinity War)

2 Uses of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” (Ralph Breaks the Internet, Bumblebee)

2 Visions of World War II with fighter planes and a mushroom cloud (Black Panther, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald)

 

Messing with the Studio Logos (A Wrinkle in Time, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Avengers: Infinity War, Rampage, Incredibles 2, Proud Mary, Peter Rabbit, Game Night, Christopher Robin, Bohemian Rhapsody, Overlord, The Favourite, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Mary Poppins Returns, Aquaman, Upgrade)

Opening Title Sequences – * = dedicated sequence (Paddington 2, The Commuter, Mom and Dad*, Isle of Dogs*, Deadpool 2*, First Reformed, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Proud Mary, Mission: Impossible – Fallout*, Christopher Robin, A Simple Favor*, Woman Walks Ahead, Set it Up, Apostle*, Bohemian Rhapsody, Overlord, Breaking in, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs*, I Feel Pretty, Roma, Mary Poppins Returns*, Vice*, Love Simon, Tully)

Wrap Party Finale (Paddington 2, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Mary Poppins Returns)

Epilogue text (The Death of Stalin, BlacKkKlansman, 12 Strong, A Simple Favor, Woman Walks Ahead, Bohemian Rhapsody, Outlaw King, Beautiful Boy, Green Book, Tag (epilogue footage) , Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Mary Queen of Scots, Vice)

Curtain Call Cast Credits (Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time, The Death of Stalin, Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Peter Rabbit, Game Night, Early Man, Overlord, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, Creed 2, Aquaman, Bumblebee)

Mid-Credits Scenes – * = does not take up the entire screen (Paddington 2*, Black Panther, The Death of Stalin*, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Isle of Dogs*, Deadpool 2, Hotel Artemis*, Proud Mary*, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Mary and the Witch’s Flower*, Peter Rabbit, Game Night*, Sorry to Bother You, Crazy Rich Asians, Book Club, Christopher Robin, A Simple Favor, Set it Up*, Blockers, Venom, Tomb Raider, Bad Times at the El Royale*, Bohemian Rhapsody*, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, Tag*, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again*, Roma*, Aquaman, Vice, Juliet Naked*, Bumblebee)

Post-Credits Scenes (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Venom, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)

 

Movies like Ready Player One, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, and Ralph Breaks the Internet feature tons of characters and iconography crossing over in the same movie, often in tiny cameos. This has necessitated a special category of “By the Numbers” I’ll call the Intellectual Property Tally.

3 Aquaman appearances (Ready Player One, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, Aquaman)

3 Iron Man appearances (Avengers: Infinity War, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Bumblebee [toy])

3 Millennium Falcon appearances/references (Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ralph Breaks the Internet)

3 Stormtrooper appearances (Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ralph Breaks the Internet)

2 “Back to the Future” main theme needle drops (Ready Player One, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies)

2 Batgirl appearances (Ready Player One, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies)

2 Batman appearances (Ready Player One, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies)

2 Deathstroke appearances (Ready Player One, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies)

2 Eeyore appearances (Christopher Robin, Ralph Breaks the Internet)

2 Flash appearances (Ready Player One, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies)

2 Groot appearances (Avengers: Infinity War, Ralph Breaks the Internet)

2 Infinity Gauntlet appearances (Avengers: Infinity War, Ralph Breaks the Internet)

2 Lara Croft appearances (Ready Player One, Tomb Raider)

2 Mera appearances (Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, Aquaman)

2 Mobile Suit Gundam appearances (Ready Player One, Pacific Rim: Uprising)

2 Optimus Prime appearances (Ready Player One, Bumblebee)

2 Original Jurassic Park Tyrannosaurus Rex appearances (Ready Player One, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom)

2 Peter Pan representations (Ralph Breaks the Internet, Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

2 Proxima Midnight appearances (Ready Player One, Avengers: Infinity War)

2 Red Skull appearances/references (Avengers: Infinity War, Ralph Breaks the Internet)

2 Supergirl appearances (Ready Player One, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies)

2 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appearances (Ready Player One, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies)

2 TIE Fighter appearances (Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ralph Breaks the Internet)

2 X-Wing appearances (Ready Player One, Ralph Breaks the Internet)

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My Film Awards – 2018

Best Supporting Actress

Andrea Riseborough Death of Stalin

Andrea Riseborough, The Death of Stalin

Molly Kunz, Widows

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Annihilation

Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Michelle Williams, I Feel Pretty

 

Best Supporting Actor

Hugh Grant Paddington 2

Hugh Grant, Paddington 2

Simon Russell Beale, The Death of Stalin

Josh Brolin, Avengers: Infinity War

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther

 

Best Original Song

Shallow

Shallow”, A Star is Born

“Always Remember Us this Way”, A Star is Born

“My Superhero Movie”, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies

“A Place Called Slaughter Race”, Ralph Breaks the Internet

“Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life”, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies

 

Best Cinematography

Alfonso Cuaron Roma

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Rob Hardy, Annihilation

Rob Hardy, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Benjamin Loeb, Mandy

Bradford Young, Solo: A Star Wars Story

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Christopher Markus Stephen McFeely

Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, Avengers: Infinity War

Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole, Black Panther

Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, & Peter Fellows, The Death of Stalin

Paul King & Simon Farnaby, Paddington 2

Christopher McQuarrie, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

 

Best Editing

Nick Johnson Will Merrick

Nick Johnson & Will Merrick, Searching

Eddie Hamilton, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Peter Lambert, The Death of Stalin

Yorgos Mavropsaridis, The Favourite

Pietro Scalia, Solo: A Star Wars Story

 

Best Original Score

Lorne Balfe

Lorne Balfe, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Christophe Beck, Ant-Man and the Wasp

Ludwig Göransson, Black Panther

Rupert Gregson-Williams, Aquaman

Justin Hurwitz, First Man

 

Best Production Design

Aquaman Black Manta David Kane

Bill Brzeski, Aquaman

Hannah Beachler, Black Panther

Ralph Eggleston, Incredibles 2

Paul Harrod & Adam Stockhausen, Isle of Dogs

Neil Lamont, Solo: A Star Wars Story

 

Best Animated Feature

13 Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Teen Titans Go! to the Movies

 

Best Original Screenplay

Paul Schrader

Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Diablo Cody, Tully

Bill Holderman & Erin Simms, Book Club

Drew Pearce, Hotel Artemis

Leigh Whannell, Upgrade

 

Best Director

Christopher McQuarrie

Christopher McQuarrie, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Ryan Coogler, Black Panther

Panos Cosmatos, Mandy

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Paul King, Paddington 2

 

Best Actor

Domhnall Gleeson Peter Rabbit

Domhnall Gleeson, Peter Rabbit

John Cho, Searching

Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Alden Ehrenreich, Solo: A Star Wars Story

Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

 

Best Actress

Olivia Cooke Thoroughbreds

Olivia Cooke, Thoroughbreds

Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns

Jodie Foster, Hotel Artemis

Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Emma Stone, The Favourite

 

Best Picture

The Death of Stalin

The Death of Stalin

Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

First Reformed

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

My Favorite Films of 2018

15) Teen Titans Go! to the Movies

15 Teen Titans Go to the Movies

One of the advantages of Corporate Synergy™ is the ability to poke fun at your own characters even as you stack them all up in a movie for basic-math super-marketability (see also Ralph Breaks the Internet). In Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, DC satirizes their own stable of superheroes and the broader context of superhero cinema, in a constantly clever and subversive kid-friendly family comedy. (My jaw hit the floor after the Thomas and Martha Wayne gag. How did they get away with this?) The conflict of the movie, which exists in a world where every DC hero imaginable has been given a starring role in their own blockbuster, comes from Robin and the rest of the Teen Titans trying to get a film of their own, with hilarity, and songs, ensuing. Yes, this is stealthily the best musical of the year on top of everything else.

 

14) Game Night

14 Game Night

2018 has actually been a damn solid year for studio comedies (a genre that I have sometimes associated with dread), with Blockers, Tag, and I Feel Pretty all sticking the landing. But none of those films reach the heights of Game Night, a high-concept murder-mystery-party-turns-real setup that’s basically shot like a straight thriller and performed with knee-slapping gusto. Jason Bateman kills his line readings, but the standout performances, getting big laughs in two totally different ways, come from Rachel McAdams and Jesse Plemons.

 

13) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

13 Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

This psychedelic animated delight fractures reality in service of a coming-of-age tale for alternate Spider-Man Miles Morales. But in addition to its humor, excellent voice acting, and universal themes, Spider-Verse is notable for its formal experimentation. When a radioactive spider bites Miles, his inner monologue and the animation style of the world around him change to closely resemble a comic book. And when alternate reality versions of Spider-Man converge in his world, different animation styles co-exist seamlessly on the screen: the modern CG of Miles, Peter Parker, and Gwen Stacy, the Looney Tunes-esque shading of Spider-Ham, the anime Peni Parker, and the black-and-white Spider-Man Noir. These unfussy mash-ups represent a special thing: the medium of animation taking a step forward. Also featuring perhaps the best Stan Lee cameo.

 

12) Can You Ever Forgive Me?

12 Can You Ever Forgive Me

A film of sharp wit and strong sense of place, Can You Ever Forgive Me? stars Melissa McCarthy in the true story of biographer Lee Israel, who is motivated by cash-strapped finances to forge and sell counterfeit letters from authors and actors she knows so well from research. This literary crime movie is bolstered by fully committed performances from McCarthy and Richard E. Grant. But just for the record, one of the bookstores in this film set in the early 1990s carries an anachronistic book that wouldn’t be written for another 25 years! Clearly, now the whole movie is a wash.

 

11) Solo: A Star Wars Story

Qi'Ra Han Solo

As the young Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich gives at once a movie-star performance and a remarkably subtle technical one. And as an excuse to spend two hours in the company of fun characters, in a crime movie in a galaxy far, far away, the movie named Solo comes up aces. Reflecting Star WarsFlash Gordon roots, the film so nails the feel of an adventure serial. As far as the spinoffs go, while Rogue One’s highs are higher, Solo is more functional as a movie. And when Han sees the Millennium Falcon for the first time, I cry every time.

 

10) The Favourite

10 The Favourite

Not your typical regency drama, this love triangle/three-way power play between Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), and newcomer maid Abigail (Emma Stone) features lots of drive-by backstabbing, pointed barbs, and more shade being thrown than is around co-star Nic Hoult’s eyes. The latest askew dramedy from Yorgos Lanthimos after the visceral satire of The Lobster and the stygian horror of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Favourite is an acting showcase with a well-bred caustic wit.

 

9) Paddington 2

09 Paddington 2

This sequel to one of the greatest family movies ever made continues to spread joy like marmalade on celluloid. Ben Whishaw reprises his charm offensive as the voice of Paddington Brown, the bear in the blue duffel coat, and this time he’s in opposition to Hugh Grant’s delightful villain Phoenix Buchanan, a washed-up actor turned criminal. In service of maximum entertainment per square minute, director Paul King deploys every filmmaking trick conceivable, including Wes Anderson-esque symmetrical storytelling and a detour into the pages of a pop-up book.

 

8) A Simple Favor

08 A Simple Favor

A total blast from start to finish, A Simple Favor is one of the crop of Gone Girl-alike thrillers, but filtered through the nimble no-frills lens of Paul Feig’s comedy. Anna Kendrick is the single mom food vlogger who gets caught up in the overwhelming larger-than-life existence of Blake Lively’s fashion company PR director, who seems like she should be in a Bond movie! With his run from Bridesmaids to this amusing mystery, Feig has become one of my favorite journeyman directors. If you’re humming along on its wavelength, A Simple Favor is a simple pleasure to watch.

 

7) Mandy

07 Mandy

An elevated exploitation movie with otherworldly cinematography, a demon biker gang, and Nicolas Cage in a chainsaw-on-chainsaw fight, Mandy feels less like a movie and more like a 1970s prog-rock album cover brought to life. It almost feels wrong to put it on a list of my favorite films of 2018, because it almost exists in a pocket dimension out of time. Is it a cliché to say that Mandy will become a modern midnight movie classic if it’s true?

 

6) Searching

06 Searching

A thrilling mystery anchored by a raw nerve performance from John Cho as a father desperately looking for his missing daughter, Searching hits a home run with its formal experiment of 100% computer screen-sourced visuals. The film deftly shows both the positive and negative aspects of the Internet, in service of a tightly coiled twist-filled narrative that keeps you on the edge of your seat. And the thing is, John Cho’s character is on the edge of his seat too, as Searching achieves a rare synergy between audience and lead character.

 

5) Black Panther

Veldt

Recently, superhero movies are adding “exotic fantasy epic” to the list of genres they can patch into their framework. Wonder Woman takes us to Themyscira, Aquaman to Atlantis and beyond, and in a move that has struck a chord throughout pop culture, Black Panther gives us Wakanda, a hidden afro-futurist über-technological nation. The film mixes spycraft, racial and interregnum-based political debate, and Shakespearean inheritance drama with apparent ease. And it all plays out through a deep bench ensemble of fascinating characters, from Chadwick Boseman’s dignified T’Challa to Letitia Wright’s scientific genius prankster Shuri to Michael B. Jordan’s magnetic villain Erik Killmonger. Overall, 2018 has been the strongest year yet for Marvel Studios. Speaking of which:

 

4) Avengers: Infinity War

Tony Stark Emotional Wringer

Marvel’s Avengers movies come fitted with a goldmine of action, character, and humor. But on a storytelling level, all three of them are deeply impressive. The 2012 Avengers effortlessly fires on all cylinders of its big-for-the-time ensemble. Age of Ultron has one of the firmest commands of theme that I’ve seen in a movie, let alone an action movie. And now, Infinity War miraculously balances its Biblically huge cast, all while arguably raising supervillain Thanos (Josh Brolin, in a standout motion capture performance) to the status of lead character. The film excels at applause moments and brutality. And when seven superheroes combine their power sets to fight Thanos on his home planet Titan, that’s the stuff comic dreams are made of.

 

3) Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Ethan Hunt Helicopter

A pure crash course in the language of cinema, the sixth Mission is a nexus of filmmaking craft operating on the highest level: stunts (many of which, near-impossibly, are performed by Tom Cruise), editing, scoring, acting, directing, cinematography, and more are all award-worthy. While I adore Fallout’s predecessor Rogue Nation even more, watching either film is like going to my happy place. I’ve listened to writer-director Christopher McQuarrie talk about this movie for six podcast hours, and with the audio commentary still ahead of me, I’m ready for more.

 

2) First Reformed

02 First Reformed

A serrated crisis-of-faith movie, First Reformed stars an electric Ethan Hawke as a priest despairing the existential threats that humanity has visited on itself. So, a feel-good romp, then. There’s the sense that 72-year-old writer-director Paul Schrader has put everything he has, themes of prayers like open wounds that he’s wrestled with his entire career, into this epistolary ecological thriller. Such a personal infusion runs the risk of railroading the audience with macho flagellation, but First Reformed breaks out of that box and just cooks.

 

1) The Death of Stalin

The Death of Stalin

This list has included cornucopias of dark humor bled out of historical politics (The Favourite) and virtuoso cinematic balancing acts (Avengers: Infinity War). The Death of Stalin embodies both, as it walks a delicate tightrope: finding the absurdist humor in the bumbling villainy of fascistic statesman. Leavening evil with wry laughs enhances the sense of both, and director/co-writer Armando Iannucci has created a culmination for his practiced room-where-it-happens satire (The Thick of it, In the Loop, Veep). The screenplay takes characters like Simon Russell Beale’s monstrous Committee member and Andrea Riseborough’s grieving daughter and pinballs them around in a farce of national proportions. Adapted from a French comic, The Death of Stalin is incredibly the year’s best comic book movie. And we do live in an age of comic book adaptations, don’t we?

My Most Anticipated Films of 2019

With the winter solstice just come and gone, it’s time to look forward to the cinematic offerings of the imminent new year. Hope springs eternal for the quality of movies of all shapes and sizes, though many of them aren’t ready to register on the radar yet. Of course, the franchised gears of Hollywood continue turning, but there are at least three tentpoles promising a tricky thing indeed: closure. Time will tell as to whether they deliver, but for now, here follows what I’m most looking forward to in 2019.

First, a smattering of bonus picks. Godzilla: King of the Monsters (next in the so-far-so-good “Monarch Monsterverse” brings out the big guns of Mothra and King Ghidorah, with Vera Farmiga as a possible twist villain); Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Tarantino’s late 1960s epic is his ninth film, and he claims retirement after ten); Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (an artifact of profound nerd disorientation that could be a charming slice of 90s nostalgia); The Woman in the Window (outsized talent Joe Wright’s stab at a thriller with Amy Adams and Gary Oldman, in the vein of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, etc); Hobbs & Shaw (the Fast and Furious spinoff greenlit on the strength of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham’s chemistry together); Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi’s bonkers-sounding Nazi-adjacent domestic dramedy); “untitled Danny Boyle Beatles movie” (a big swing that could go either way, about a musician who finds that he’s the only person on Earth who can remember the Beatles – could go completely cornball, or it could blow Across the Universe out of the Liverpudlian water); John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (the follow-up to the excellent Chapter Two promises more audacious worldbuilding and killer gun-fu choreography).

 

10) Last Christmas

10 Last Christmas

There’s something to the idea of being a reliable journeyman. Paul Feig is in the midst of an astonishingly solid five-movie run from Bridesmaids to last year’s delightful pulp-fizz fiction A Simple Favor. Last Christmas could well continue to keep up that quality, seeing as it’s co-written by Academy Award winning screenwriter Emma Thompson (who appears in the film as well, alongside Emilia Clarke and Crazy Rich Asians stars Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh).

 

9) Eve

09 Eve

Jessica Chastain (my favorite actress) is starting to produce and star in a slew of action movies, and I couldn’t be more here for them. Not a whole lot is known about Eve, and it doesn’t help that the directorial choice of Tate Taylor skews more on the generic side (though, hey, I thought The Girl on the Train was underrated). But it’s a time for leaps of faith, plus the movie features Geena Davis, star of one of my all-time favorite action films, The Long Kiss Goodnight.

 

8) Knives Out

08 Knives Out

Of all the digital ink spilled, vomited, used and abused discussing Rian Johnson’s work on (the masterful) Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the visual aspect is often ignored. Johnson’s sublime camerawork has a lot to do with my high regard for that movie; the guy just speaks the language of cinema. And Knives Out looks to bring him back to the mystery neo-noir mode of Brick. That is, with an absurdly deep bench of a cast, including Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, and Toni Collette, just to name a few. This is the type of middle-budget genre fare that can really kill if executed properly.

 

7) Captain Marvel

07 Captain Marvel

It’s taken 11 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but some firsts are coming to fruition in Captain Marvel. The first female-led MCU picture (Brie Larson), the first female (co-)director (Anna Boden). And less consequentially but also super important given the future of franchise filmmaking: the first time the de-aging process previously applied to Robert Downey Jr. and Michelle Pfeiffer will be used for a whole runtime’s worth of Samuel L. Jackson. More prosaically, Captain Marvel will be a welcome cosmic MCU entry, even bringing back a couple lame-duck Guardians of the Galaxy villains for a second chance. This origin story for essentially Marvel’s equivalent to Superman has all the ingredients necessary to be a supersonic blast.

 

6) How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

06 How to Train Your Dragon The Hidden World

After the stratospheric delights of two previous entries, The Hidden World promises much-delayed closure to this gorgeous animated trilogy. And as long as John Powell’s triumphant score is present and correct, the series should continue to soar. Given the inherent ticking clock on humanity’s bond with the dragons, there may not be much blood, but there will be tears.

 

5) Us

05 Us

Jordan Peele has set Us up a bit similarly to Get Out, but it’s a fool’s bet that this will be more of the same. Twisted-happenings-visit-a-family-unit is getting an airing here, and I can’t wait to see what layers Us will reveal. Get Out is a Swiss clock of a movie, paced and spooled out with a preternatural confidence. Look for more of that coiled tightness in service of fascinating theming here, though the trailer for Us promises even more overtly chilling horror right off the bat.

 

4) The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

04 The LEGO Movie 2

Speaking of fascinating theming, the first LEGO Movie is a poster child for it. It’s incumbent on the sequel to continue that multi-pronged storytelling that runs the gamut from delightful silliness to sharp movie narrative pastiche to trope (and LEGO brick) deconstruction. But all the narrative pyrotechnics are worth nothing without The Second Part delivering a pastel-colored rictus-grin blast, which it almost surely will.

 

In a virtual three-way tie, I could make an argument for any of the top three choices to be my number one. That being said, the following pecking order works for me. (And yes, all three are distributed by the monolithic Mouse House.)

3) Frozen 2

03 Frozen 2

As a Frozen superfan, I ride hard without irony for Frozen Fever, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, and Frozen Live at the Hyperion (the stage musical version adapted for Disney California Adventure), all in anticipation of the legitimate follow-up to one of my favorite films. Frozen left the castle doors open in a fairy tale happy ending, so introducing a movie-justifying conflict is an interesting quandary to start the sequel from. And even more daunting, there’s the challenge of living up to some of the greatest Disney songs ever written. Even so, the movie has more than a snowball’s chance in Hell.

 

2) Avengers: Endgame

02 Avengers Endgame

Avengers: Infinity War ends on a stark note to say the least (pun intended), so the first teaser for Endgame made the laudable choice to focus entirely on character and emotion, which is simply unheard of for a superhero blockbuster. The (correct) assumption is that we keep coming back not just for digital spectacle, but also for the quiet and loud human moments between characters. We love these people. And Endgame, in addition to bringing some measure of closure to 21 films, will likely be the last time we see Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, and more besides. Fans should be in for one hell of a payoff.

 

1) Star Wars Episode 9

01 Star Wars Episode 9

Here’s that word again: closure. This film will close out the Star Wars sequel trilogy begun in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, but is predominantly being sold as the culmination of the “Skywalker saga”, spanning all nine numbered films. How it will feel as such is very much up in the air (Hayden Christensen appearance?), along with most things about the movie (including how Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa will be given her due justice). But any movie including Rey, Kylo Ren, Rose Tico, Lando Calrissian, and Luke Skywalker’s Force ghost is probably my most anticipated by fait accompli. J.J. Abrams steered the ship of The Force Awakens under very specific circumstances that called for a slightly conservative imagination, and I think with 9, he and his crew are ready to cut loose. Imaginative epics like Rogue One and superbly executed stories like The Last Jedi have helped to make me a bigger fan of Star Wars now than I ever was before, and Episode 9 is the gift I’m most looking forward to unwrapping next December.

 

My Year at the Movies – 2017

Action Scenes of the Year (SPOILERS) (see below for One-on-One Fights)

10) The Losers’ Club vs. Pennywise, It

9) Shootout, Wind River

8) Foot chase, Baby Driver

7) Finale chase, Monster Trucks

6) Motorcycle surf chase, xXx: Return of Xander Cage

5) Mexican standoff, Logan

4) One-shot brawl, Atomic Blonde

3) Veld, Wonder Woman

2) Escalating finale, The Fate of the Furious

1) The throne room, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Throne Room Fight Praetorian First Guard Rey Kylo Ren

Best Action Films of the Year

Baby Driver

Atomic Blonde

The Fate of the Furious

John Wick Chapter Two

Logan

 

Best Non-2017 Films Discovered in 2017

https://letterboxd.com/paulstanis/list/best-non-2017-films-discovered-in-2017/

 

My Favorite () Yet

Battle of the Sexes, my favorite Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris film yet

The Fate of the Furious, my favorite Fast and Furious film yet

Gifted, my favorite Marc Webb film yet (though I haven’t seen (500) Days of Summer)

Logan, my favorite Wolverine film yet

My Cousin Rachel, my favorite Roger Michell film yet

Power Rangers, my favorite Power Rangers film yet

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, my favorite Rian Johnson and (maybe) Star Wars film yet

Thor: Ragnarok, my favorite Thor and Taika Waititi film yet

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, my favorite Martin McDonagh film yet

Wonder Woman, my favorite DCU film yet

xXx: Return of Xander Cage, my favorite xXx film yet (but, sue me, I like State of the Union)

 

Best Heroes or Antiheroes of the Year

11) Moonie (Brooklynn Prince), The Florida Project

10) Meredith (Jane Levy), Monster Trucks

9) Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), Molly’s Game

8) Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), Murder on the Orient Express

7) Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Thor: Ragnarok

6) Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), Get Out

5) Diana (Gal Gadot), Wonder Woman

4) Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

3) Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Thor: Ragnarok

2) Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rose Tico

1) Ruth Kimke (Melanie Lynskey), I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore

Ruth Kimke

 

Worst Heroes or Antiheroes of the Year

Valerian and Laureline (Dane DeHaan and Cara Delavigne), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), Cars 3

 

Best Horror Films of the Year

Get Out

The Girl with All the Gifts

It

mother!

Raw

 

Moments of the Year

20) ATM, Baby Driver

19) “Of course not”, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

18) Churchill’s speech, Dunkirk

17) Olive the Wonder Woman, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

16) Projector scare, It

15) Riff-off, Pitch Perfect 3

14) “Luck don’t live out here”, Wind River

13) The reversal, Good Time

12) Laura unleashed, Logan

11) The cop car, Get Out

10) Good Morning Missouri broadcast, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

9) A hypothetical question, The Post

8) The ending, Your Name.

7) Second “Immigrant Song” needle drop, Thor: Ragnarok

6) TIE: “Choose” and “No More Catholics”, T2 Trainspotting

5) “I wish I could put my fist through this whole lousy, beautiful town”, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

4) Diplomacy montage, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

3) Shaw family reunion, The Fate of the Furious

2) This one, Kong: Skull Island

Explosion Reflected in Shades Kong Skull Island

1) No man’s land, Wonder Woman

wonder-woman

One-on-One Fights of the Year (SPOILERS)

13) Roland Deschlain vs. Walter, The Dark Tower

12) Eggsy Unwin vs. Charlie Hesketh, Kingsman: The Golden Circle

11) Logan vs. X-24, Logan

10) Letty vs. Russian, The Fate of the Furious

9) Walter vs. David, Alien: Covenant

8) Finn vs. Phasma, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

7) Vincent Downs vs. McFerrin, Sleepless

6) Thor vs. The Hulk, Thor: Ragnarok

5) Nick Morton vs. Edward Hyde, The Mummy

4) Mark Renton vs. Simon Williamson, T2 Trainspotting

3) Ashley Miller vs. Veronica Salt (Round 1), Catfight

2) Gamora vs. Nebula, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

1) John Wick vs. Cassian, John Wick Chapter 2

 

Best Pop Culture References/Allusions of the Year

10) The Lord of the Rings, Unforgettable

9) Hercules, The Fate of the Furious

8) Monk, The Assignment

7) Star Wars, Spider-Man: Homecoming

6) Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Thor: Ragnarok

5) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, T2 Trainspotting

4) Wings of Desire, The Space Between Us

3) Seconds, Get Out

2) A Song of Ice and Fire, Logan Lucky

1) Jerry Maguire, The LEGO Batman Movie

 

Ranking Disney-Distributed Movies (Worst to Best)

7) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

6) Cars 3

5) Coco

4) Beauty and the Beast

3) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

2) Thor: Ragnarok

1) Star Wars: The Last Jedi

 

Best School Films of the Year

Lady Bird

It

Monster Trucks

Power Rangers

Spider-Man: Homecoming

 

Best Science Fiction Films of the Year

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Blade Runner 2049

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The Space Between Us

War for the Planet of the Apes

 

Sequel Improvement

Cars 3 > Cars 2

The Fate of the Furious > Furious 7

John Wick Chapter 2 > John Wick

Logan > The Wolverine

Star Wars: The Last Jedi > Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Thor: Ragnarok > Thor: The Dark World

xXx: Return of Xander Cage > xXx: State of the Union

 

Sequel Decline

Kingsman: The Golden Circle < Kingsman: The Secret Service

Pitch Perfect 3 < Pitch Perfect 2

Transformers: The Last Knight < Transformers: Age of Extinction

 

Best Sequel (#2 – Second Installment) of the Year

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Blade Runner 2049

John Wick Chapter Two

T2 Trainspotting

 

Best Sequel (#3 – Third Installment) of the Year

Thor: Ragnarok

Logan

War for the Planet of the Apes

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

 

Best Spinoffs of the Year

Wonder Woman

Kong: Skull Island

The LEGO Batman Movie

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Split

 

Stray Observations

After Godzilla cameos in Moana, King Kong cameos in The LEGO Batman Movie.

After Idris Elba sang the end credits song of Bastille Day, Samuel L. Jackson does the same in The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

After Tilda Swinton played twins in Hail, Caesar!, she does it again in Okja.

The general overuse of “Spirit in the Sky” continues with Life’s end credits, and I Tonya.

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a peasant recognizes that Arthur is king because he’s “the only one who hasn’t got shit all over him”. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has a scene that covers Arthur in shit.

The Belko Experiment and The Circle share one similar plot point, and have the exact same final shot.

Peter Ferdinando plays the main villain’s henchman in both King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

I’ve seen four versions of The Mummy and this one is the weakest.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie is the second-best Power Rangers movie of the year.

In Battle of the Sexes, Emma Stone appears under a huge sign spelling Aloha, aka the movie where she infamously played the one-quarter Hawaiian Allison Ng.

Best nonverbal acting of the year: Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s Carrie Fisher in the scene where Leia and Kylo Ren feel each other’s presence through the Force.

There are five 2017 movies with the word “Wonder” in the title: Wonder Woman, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Wonderstruck, Wonder Wheel, and Wonder. Not to mention Logan, Logan Lucky, and Lucky. Plus, Your Name. and Call Me by Your Name.

I could have pretty much filled a legitimate, endorsed-by-me Best Actress category exclusively with people whose last name starts with H: Rebecca Hall in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Anne Hathaway in Colossal, Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water, Anne Heche in Catfight.

 

Tearjerkers of the Year

Dunkirk; Professor Marston and the Wonder Women; Wonder Woman; Murder on the Orient Express; Coco; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Your Name.; The Post

 

Most Underrated Films of the Year

Star Wars: The Last Jedi; The Space Between Us; Sleepless

And Monster Trucks wins my “Pardon One Turkey” award. It’s really good!

 

Best Villains of the Year

10) Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), The Shape of Water

9) The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), Thor: Ragnarok

8) Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde (James McAvoy), Split

7) Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener), Get Out

6) Hela (Cate Blanchett), Thor: Ragnarok

5) Ego (Kurt Russell), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

4) The Joker (Zach Galifianakis), The LEGO Batman Movie

3) Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), Spider-Man: Homecoming

2) Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle), T2 Trainspotting

1) Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Kylo Ren Samurai

Worst Villain of the Year

Steppenwolf

Born to be a mild threat.

WTF (Bad)

Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance, Okja

Chicago song at the big dramatic climax, Death Note

Ominous ending, Unforgettable

Mid-credits scene, Wish Upon

Jason Isaacs as Phantom of the Opera meets Frankenstein’s monster, A Cure for Wellness

The notion that people care about the byzantine politics, Underworld: Blood Wars

All of Transformers: The Last Knight

Jump scares, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

 

WTF (Good)

Rambling Anthony Hopkins villain, Collide

Excalibur, The Dark Tower

Fauna, Kong: Skull Island

The world revolves around an adult’s cards game, Girlfriend’s Day

TIE: The breakup scene and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift crossover, Wish Upon

Nicolas Cage as Unhinged Main Villain #32, Arsenal

Cockney Crowe, The Mummy

The concept of Colossal

Adventureland, Good Time

Uncensored Jeff Goldblum, Thor: Ragnarok

Mid-Credits scene, Split

All of The Fate of the Furious

 

Best War Films of the Year

Dunkirk

Mudbound

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Their Finest

Wonder Woman

 

(ROUGH) Final Ranking of All (111) 2017 Films Seen (Best to Worst)

Get Out; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; The Fate of the Furious; Colossal; The Post; Thor: Ragnarok; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri; Baby Driver; Your Name.; Wonder Woman; John Wick Chapter 2; Molly’s Game; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2; I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore; Beauty and the Beast; Battle of the Sexes; T2 Trainspotting; The Disaster Artist; Atomic Blonde; Coco; The Shape of Water; Logan; Murder on the Orient Express; Dunkirk; All the Money in the World; The LEGO Batman Movie; Blade Runner 2049; Darkest Hour; The Big Sick; mother!; Wind River; Loving Vincent; Spider-Man: Homecoming; Lady Bird; Kong: Skull Island; Monster Trucks; The Space Between Us; xXx: Return of Xander Cage; Catfight; Good Time; Phantom Thread; I Tonya; Call Me by Your Name; The Girl with All the Gifts; War for the Planet of the Apes; Free Fire; The Lost City of Z; Professor Marston and the Wonder Women; Raw; Power Rangers; Sleepless; The Hitman’s Bodyguard; Mudbound; It; Logan Lucky; Gifted; Pitch Perfect 3; Ingrid Goes West; American Made; Kingsman: The Golden Circle; Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets; The Breadwinner; Alien: Covenant; Their Finest; Girlfriend’s Day; The Great Wall; War on Everyone; The Florida Project; Personal Shopper; The Assignment; Split; Okja; A Ghost Story; The Greatest Showman; My Cousin Rachel; Aftermath; Cars 3; Gold; The Beguiled; Ghost in the Shell; Gerald’s Game; The Belko Experiment; The Discovery; The Zookeeper’s Wife; The Dark Tower; Justice League; Victoria & Abdul; Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie; The LEGO Ninjago Movie; Sleight; Table 19; Geostorm; Death Note; The Circle; Wonder Wheel; Wilson; Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales; Life; A Cure for Wellness; The Mummy; Wish Upon; The Foreigner; The Wall; Before I Fall; King Arthur: Legend of the Sword; The Book of Henry; Collide; Arsenal; Transformers: The Last Knight; Unforgettable; Underworld: Blood Wars; Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

 

By the Numbers

7 Monsters with grotesque rows of teeth (Monster Trucks, The Great Wall, Kong: Skull Island, Colossal, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Alien: Covenant, It)

5 Final bosses with skull helmets (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Wonder Woman, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League)

4 Jungle treks (Kong: Skull Island, The Lost City of Z, Gold, Kingsman: The Golden Circle)

4 Films featuring sign language (John Wick Chapter Two, Baby Driver, War for the Planet of the Apes, The Shape of Water)

4 Women in a creepy isolated house (mother!, Gerald’s Game, Personal Shopper, A Ghost Story)

4 Wonder Woman appearances (The LEGO Batman Movie, Wonder Woman, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Justice League)

3 Awful fifth installments (Underworld: Blood Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Transformers: The Last Knight)

3 Films dealing with the Dunkirk Evacuation (Their Finest, Dunkirk, Darkest Hour)

3 Uses of John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” (Free Fire, Okja, Kingsman: The Golden Circle)

3 Uses of John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads” (Alien: Covenant, Logan Lucky, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) (The latter two films both feature Channing Tatum.)

3 Appearances of King Arthur’s sword Excalibur (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Transformers: The Last Knight, The Dark Tower)

3 “Major Tom” songs/references (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Atomic Blonde, Geostorm)

3 Films revolving around a one-on-one fight/confrontation (Catfight, Unforgettable, Battle of the Sexes)

3 Samuel L. Jackson appearances where another role of his is referenced (xXx: Return of Xander Cage, Kong: Skull Island, The Hitman’s Bodyguard)

3 Series’ main protagonists turn evil (The Fate of the Furious, Transformers: The Last Knight, Justice League) (With the exception of Justice League, the other films feature at least one scene in Cuba.)

3 Stephen King adaptations (The Dark Tower, It, Gerald’s Game)

3 Villains whose name is scoffed/laughed at (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, The Dark Tower)

2 Ape films heavily referencing Apocalypse Now (Kong: Skull Island, War for the Planet of the Apes)

2 February horror films in which a car hits a deer (Get Out, A Cure for Wellness)

2 Characters who make a big deal about aiming a weapon with his heart (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Dark Tower)

2 Coney Island appearances (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Wonder Wheel)

2 Eighth installments (The Fate of the Furious, Star Wars: The Last Jedi)

2 Uses of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” (Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Battle of the Sexes)

2 Uses of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I Tonya)

2 Genius-level gifted kids (Gifted, The Book of Henry)

2 Giant animals in South Korea (Colossal, Okja)

2 Good remakes (Beauty and the Beast, Sleepless)

2 High school films with the female lead being run over by a car at the end (Wish Upon, Before I Fall)

2 Hopeful futures for the International Space Station (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Geostorm)

2 of Jaeden Lieberher’s friends being abused by her single-parent father (The Book of Henry, It)

2 King Kong sightings (The LEGO Batman Movie, Kong: Skull Island)

2 Instances of life on Mars (Life, The Space Between Us)

2 Films where people ask someone what their mother was like and the answer is “fearless” (Beauty and the Beast, The Space Between Us)

2 Tom Cruise plane crashes (The Mummy, American Made)

2 Villainous absentee fathers who play catch with their son (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The LEGO Ninjago Movie)

Curtain Call Cast Credits (xXx: Return of Xander Cage, The LEGO Batman Movie, The Great Wall, Beauty and the Beast, Sleepless, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Assignment, Collide, Death Note*, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Loving Vincent, Thor: Ragnarok)

Epilogue Text (The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Lost City of Z, The Assignment, The Big Sick*, Wind River, American Made, Battle of the Sexes, Victoria & Abdul, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Loving Vincent, The Disaster Artist, Darkest Hour, All the Money in the World, The Greatest Showman, I Tonya)

Mid-Credits Scenes (Split, Power Rangers, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Transformers: The Last Knight, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Wish Upon, Good Time*, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League, Pitch Perfect 3*, Call Me by Your Name*, Phantom Thread*)

Post-Credits Scenes (Kong: Skull Island, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Cars 3, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Okja, Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League, The Disaster Artist)

Rose Tico Valkyrie Ruth Kimke

The three heroes of the year.

My Film Awards – 2017

Best Supporting Actress

Betty Gabriel Get Out

Betty Gabriel, Get Out

Holly Hunter, The Big Sick

Allison Janney, I Tonya

Catherine Keener, Get Out

Andrea Riseborough, Battle of the Sexes

 

Best Supporting Actor

Sam Rockwell Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Adam Driver, Logan Lucky

Gary Oldman, The Space Between Us

Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

Elijah Wood, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore

 

Best Original Song

Beast in the West Wing

Evermore”, Beauty and the Beast

“Days in the Sun”, Beauty and the Beast

“The Greatest Show”, The Greatest Showman

“Remember Me”, Coco

“When We’re Together”, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure

 

Best Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049 Shadow Cinematography

Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049

Larry Fong, Kong: Skull Island

Dan Laustsen, John Wick Chapter 2

Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Call Me by Your Name

Vittorio Storaro, Wonder Wheel

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Rian Johnson Star Wars The Last Jedi

Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Michael Green, Murder on the Orient Express

Liz Hannah & Josh Singer, The Post

Kumail Nanjiani & Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick

Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game

 

Best Editing

Baby Driver

Jonathan Amos & Paul Machliss, Baby Driver

Gregory Plotkin, Get Out

Evan Schiff, John Wick Chapter 2

Lee Smith, Dunkirk

Christian Wagner & Paul Rubell, The Fate of the Furious

 

Best Original Score

John Williams Star Wars The Last Jedi

John Williams, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Jonny Greenwood, Phantom Thread

Clint Mansell, Loving Vincent

Mark Mothersbaugh, Thor: Ragnarok

Oneohtrix Point Never, Good Time

 

Best Production Design

Thor Ragnarok

Dan Hennah & Ra Vincent, Thor: Ragnarok

Stefan Dechant, Kong: Skull Island

Sarah Greenwood, Beauty and the Beast

Rick Heinrichs, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Hugues Tissandier, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

 

Best Animated Feature

 Your Name.

Your Name.

The Breadwinner

Coco

The LEGO Batman Movie

Loving Vincent

 

Best Original Screenplay

Jordan Peele Get Out

Jordan Peele, Get Out

Michael McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Onur Tukel, Catfight

Nacho Vigalondo, Colossal

Edgar Wright, Baby Driver

 

Best Director

Darren Aronofsky mother!

Darren Aronofsky, mother!

Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Jordan Peele, Get Out

Nacho Vigalondo, Colossal

Edgar Wright, Baby Driver

 

Best Actor

Robert Pattinson Good Time

Robert Pattinson, Good Time

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

James McAvoy, Split

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Jeremy Renner, Wind River

 

Best Actress

Michelle Williams All the Money in the World

Michelle Williams, All the Money in the World

Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread

Melanie Lynskey, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Meryl Streep, The Post

 

Best Picture

 Get Out

Get Out

Colossal

The Fate of the Furious

The Post

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

My Favorite Films of 2017

19) Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde

A case of style over substance if ever there was one, but what style! One of the most aesthetically complete movies of the year, Atomic Blonde is a neon dream of a Cold War espionage thrill ride. The plot can twist itself in knots a bit, but observe the masterful hallway fight (part of a larger one-shot wonder-sequence) and you’ll understand the film’s priorities. Hopefully Charlize Theron’s ice cool spy Lorraine Broughton can carry the story into a sequel.

18) The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist

This chronicle of the making of “the best worst movie ever made” will play differently depending on whether you’ve entered The Room, but regardless, laughs will be had. The Disaster Artist is a brisk and likable comedy, sometimes truly hilarious, propelled by an engine of eccentricity in James Franco’s take on mysterious auteur Tommy Wiseau. Early scenes where Dave Franco’s Greg (and thus the audience) first gets to know Tommy are comedy gold, and actually outshine later scenes of the film production (some sequences require tonal gymnastics that the film isn’t quite limber enough to land). Anyway, how’s your sex life?

17) T2 Trainspotting

T2 Trainspotting

Nostalgia sequels are nothing new, but T2 Trainspotting asks, “What if those good ol’ days we’re nostalgic for were actually shit?” This 21-years-on sequel finds the ensemble in various stages of repeating old mistakes and breaking out of old cycles, with a big heart to go along with its old cynicism. Add in a new chill-inducing “choose…” montage, a hilarious musical number, and a bona fide slasher movie finale, and director Danny Boyle has done the film that made his name proud.

16) Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes

For me, this was a wonderful bait-and-switch. Rather than following by rote the titular tennis match between humbly trailblazing feminist Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and showy self-styled misogynist Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), Battle of the Sexes transcends the true-life sports movie by prioritizing the personal. A rose-eyed and bittersweet romance between King and a radiant Andrea Riseborough gives the film its beating heart, even as it still builds to some terrific tennis action for the finale.

15) Beauty and the Beast

La Belle et la Bete

When it comes to the updates made by this remake of the beloved animated film, all I see are positives. The romance, the music, the production, it all comes together for something quite elegant – in particular, two of the new songs rule hard. While not flawless, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast is a movie I’ll be revisiting for a while.

14) I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore

I Don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore

There was no main character I liked more this year than Melanie Lynskey’s Ruth Kimke. She’s got more bad days than good, a hilarious sidekick (Elijah Wood), and a vigilante’s sense of moral indignation. The film, like director Macon Blair’s childhood friend Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room before it, feels like it was made to subtly comment on Trump’s America even before it was a reality. This left-of-center indie taps into something primal, even as it ambles down its own path.

13) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy

Leaning hard on spoofery, if this sequel to one of Marvel’s biggest sleeper hits had its tongue any more firmly in its cheek, it’d eat through the flesh. Free (for better or worse) from the traditional beats of an action movie, writer/director James Gunn digs deep with character (side characters Nebula and Yondu are given golden material here) and makes a grand cosmic daddy issues film – the spectacle has expanded, the focus has contracted. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may laugh at its own jokes a little more than warranted, but its freewheeling nature and stealth emotional gut-punches save the day.

12) Molly’s Game

Molly's Game

A movie after my own heart – my favorite actress Jessica Chastain headlining my favorite writer Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut! This engaging believe-it-or-not true-life account of lucrative underground poker has much to recommend it, but I actually prefer last year’s Chastain-starring Sorkin ripoff Miss Sloane (which is really a testament to how good Miss Sloane is rather than an indictment of Molly’s Game!). To an extent Molly’s Game exists now as a screenwriting opus to be revisited on home video, where each of its mile-a-minute witticisms can be extracted and appreciated at one’s own pace.

11) John Wick Chapter 2

John Wick Chapter 2

It wasn’t enough for the filmmakers behind John Wick Chapter 2 to fill another 90 minutes with gorgeously balletic gun-fu choreography and regularly paced headshots, although they’ve succeeded in that. What makes this sequel special is how it builds out this bizarre world of assassin subcultures and operatic vengeance. The film is an action touchstone while also delighting us with the context for that violence.

10) Wonder Woman

wonder-woman

It’s hard to imagine a lower bar to clear than the rest of the current DC cinematic universe, but Wonder Woman is more than just the best (read: only good) movie of the pack, it’s a genuinely great film. The No Man’s Land sequence is the moment of the year, an unironic crystallization so clear of why we as a culture mythologize superheroes that it seems destined to do for this generation what Superman: The Movie did for another.

9) Your Name.

Your Name.

The best animated film of the year, Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name will make your heart feel a great many things. Breathtaking 2D animation comes in service of an evolving story that at first seems like just a silly bodyswap comedy but in due time becomes something mind-expanding. City boy Taki and small town girl Mitsuha are just lines on a page and voices in a stereo mix, but this is the magic of animation, that they become much more.

8) Baby Driver

Baby Driver

An audacious technical exercise, a swaggering experiment in formal editing, a jukebox musical heist, a kickass car chase flick, Baby Driver is master filmmaker Edgar Wright’s latest, making us all grateful for the concept of a passion project. Just as Baby (Ansel Elgort) syncs his getaway driving to the songs on his iPod, the film edits to the beats as well. As much a movie to be studied, as it is one to be swept away by while in the passenger seat.

7) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

An unflinchingly funny, vulgar, and emotional small-town saga unfolds when Mildred Hayes (a terrific Frances McDormand) uses three billboards to protest the lack of progress in solving her daughter’s rape/murder case. A great cast (of which Sam Rockwell is the other major highlight) and an unpredictable story make Ebbing, Missouri a darn good place to spend a couple hours.

6) Thor: Ragnarok

Thor Ragnarok

Exactly what I wanted out of a Taika Waititi Marvel movie and more, Thor: Ragnarok is an incredible spectacle and a well-rounded blockbuster. Hilarious but not vapid, outrageous but not alienating, the good stuff keeps popping off the screen like fireworks. Uncensored Jeff Goldblum, Chris Hemsworth’s comedy chops unleashed, a sadistic-as-Hel Cate Blanchett, a revelatory performance from Tessa Thompson, musical callbacks to other Marvel movies, bright pastel colors, one of the most exciting finales of the year, and Led Zeppelin!

5) The Post

The Post

Going into Steven Spielberg’s The Post I was thinking a lot of its value would come from its lightning-rod topicality as a White House spits on the free press, but I came out pleasantly surprised by its considerable cinematic power. Once it gets in its groove, scene after scene becomes exquisite, quietly powerful drama, as characters come to terms with painful truths about people they considered friends, and the choice between easy hypocrisy and hard idealism. This is a beautiful American movie, and proof that the Beard is not to be underestimated (here’s looking at Ready Player One…?). Also, The Post teases Watergate the way some movies tease Thanos’ invasion of Earth.

4) Colossal

Colossal

How to explain Colossal? Basically, a kaiju devastates Seoul and Anne Hathaway’s Gloria figures out that it mimics her own movements while at a certain location, and that it’s most likely a manifestation of her drinking problems. But you only have the see the movie to know that’s not the whole story at all. Colossal is a thematically rich character study unafraid to go to some dark places, and watching it unfold is one of the most rewarding cinematic journeys of the year.

3) The Fate of the Furious

Deckard Shaw Luke Hobbs

Between this and a certain other little movie, it sure was a good year for eighth installments in franchises, and the Fast and Furious series shows no signs of slowing down in quality after the turning point of Fast Five. While not without drawbacks, The Fate of the Furious is an immensely entertaining, beautifully edited action extravaganza that pushes the buttons so well it’s hard to imagine how a ninth film will top it. The way things are going, it’ll find a way.

2) Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Kylo Ren Samurai

The best blockbuster of the year, bar none, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a thrilling affirmation of everything Star Wars was and is and should be, filled with charismatic performances, sensitive character development, and a great spirit of desperate adventure. And on a technical level, how about gorgeous production design, a wonderful John Williams score, and courtesy of Rian Johnson, the most whip smart direction Star Wars has seen. Send me to the Coruscant insane asylum if you will, but I think The Last Jedi is the most flawless, if not the best, installment in this storied franchise.

1) Get Out

Get Out

The movie of 2017, the most important movie of the year, etc, etc. Get Out’s depiction of a different class of racism has rightly started a yearlong conversation. But beyond the real sociological concerns animating the film, Get Out is a perfect genre movie, moving from tension to joke to shock like clockwork. An uncannily assured debut feature from Jordan Peele, the film features expert editing, a fiendishly clever screenplay, and a murderer’s row of fantastic performances (Daniel Kaluuya, Catherine Keener, Betty Gabriel, Bradley Whitford, and Lil Rel Howery are all terrific). It takes a special talent to make an instantly iconic movie, but Jordan Peele obviously has a lot to get out of his system, and we should all be glad that he did.

My Most Anticipated Films of 2018

Is it really almost 2018? Whatever you make of that shocking fact, the coming year will have another bumper crop of movies, good, bad, and indifferent. For this list, I felt perhaps a bigger than usual challenge to represent both big franchise goodness and intriguing smaller-scale efforts, so I hope you enjoy what I’ve come up with. Ahead of my mid-January blitz of end-of-2017 material, let’s look forward before looking back.

First, a host of bonus picks. Creed 2 (the sequel to one of the best franchise reinventions in years also brings back the misunderstood Ivan Drago); Bad Times at the El Royale (filmmaker extraordinaire and super-writer Drew Goddard’s one-location thriller); Sicario 2: Soldado (a Benicio del Toro-starring sequel); Black Klansman (a topical and potentially very-big-deal movie from Spike Lee); Roma (potential new Alfonso Cuarón masterpiece in domestic mode but intriguingly shot with big ol’ technical ambition); Widows (Viola Davis leads an ensemble cast of widows who complete the heist that their late husbands could not); Ant-Man and the Wasp (finally, a female MCU superhero with at least co-lead billing); The Death of Stalin (after In the Loop, more Armando Ianucci pitch-black political satire); Solo: A Star Wars Story (it’s Star Wars, it’s maybe a gangster movie, it’s got Lando Calrissian).

10) Anna and the Apocalypse

Anna and the Apocalypse

This festival darling is a mashup Christmas zombie musical that apparently delivers on its considerable ambition rather than falling on its face. If this Scottish confection sticks the landing we could have a Shaun of the Dead-level success here. If not, at least it will probably hard to take our eyes off it.

9) Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-it Ralph 2

Ralph Breaks the Internet Wreck-it Ralph 2

I’m not a fan of Wreck-it Ralph. Then, why is this sequel on the list? Basically because it promises to be Disney’s The LEGO Movie, metatextually zipping around references and in-jokes. There’s trepidation because it could also be Disney’s The Emoji Movie, with the considerable risk of commenting on the weirdness of the internet. So like Anna and the Apocalypse, this is a mashup movie that has to walk a pretty thin tightrope, but what secured its place on this list is a sequence bringing together the Disney princesses (a scene which screened at Disney expo D23 and brought the house down). *Deep breath* Irene Bedard as Pocahontas, Kelly Macdonald as Merida, Linda Larkin as Jasmine, Anika Noni Rose as Tiana, Jodi Benson as Ariel, Mandy Moore as Rapunzel, Ming-Na Wen as Mulan, Paige O’Hara as Belle, Kristen Bell as Anna, Idina Menzel as Elsa, and Auli’i Cravalho as Moana! Disney fans, try to stay calm.

8) Domino

Brian De Palma Domino

Not a Deadpool spinoff, not a reboot of the Keira Knightley movie, not another remake of Thunderball. This is the latest film from one of our greatest living directors, Brian De Palma, his first since the extremely uneven Passion. De Palma has been very open about how difficult it is for older filmmakers to recapture their creative spark, but you never know when it will reignite. With a promising cast including Guy Pearce and Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Carice van Houten, this new film from the director of Carrie and Dressed to Kill is one to keep an eye on.

7) Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins Returns

Making a sequel to one of the greatest film musicals of all time is a bold move, and hiring Lin-Manuel Miranda to help develop the songs is certainly a good first step. I get the sense that Disney seems to be throwing every bit of whimsy they have into this one, and hopefully the long development period pays off. Also, Dick Van Dyke is coming back, so I’ll take this opportunity to say that his bad Cockney accent is absolutely the right fit for his character.

6) The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

This film probably tops the list of Movie Fandom’s most anticipated, simply because of how absurdly long Terry Gilliam has spent trying to make this thing a reality. Disastrous weather, bailing financiers, actor changes, and more have been obstacles in the decades-long process of getting The Man Who Killed Don Quixote made, which has been a quixotic journey in itself. It makes you wonder if the film itself can possibly be as interesting as its genesis. We’ll see!

5) Black Panther

Black Panther

My fellow Saint Mary’s College alumnus Ryan Coogler is one of the more exciting rising star directors out there. Starting small with Fruitvale Station, killing it with a mid-budget Creed, and now in the MCU big leagues with Black Panther, Coogler has assembled an impeccable cast for an Afro-futurist extravaganza. Despite this movie coming out pretty soon, we intriguingly don’t know much about the story and themes at play; let’s hope this movie soars.

4) Mission: Impossible 6

Mission Impossible 6

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was the best spy movie of 2015, a year riddled with them. That film’s writer and director Christopher McQuarrie is coming back for more (a first for a Mission: Impossible director), after giving us the airplane stunt, the opera house sequence to end all opera house sequences, and Ilsa Faust, one of my favorite film characters of recent memory. This sequel has big shoes to fill, but it’s distinguished itself already by featuring a stunt that actually incapacitated the unstoppable Tom Cruise. They’re gonna use the take that hurt in the movie, I know it.

3) Paddington 2

Paddington 2

Mea culpa. I included Paddington 2 in My Most Anticipated Films of 2017, and while it did release in October 2017 in the UK, the US release schedule pushes it back to January of the following year. Everything I said before still applies for this sequel to one of the best family movies in decades, except that people in Paddington’s native UK have seen it already. Suffice to say, they like it.

2) Lucy and Desi

Lucy and Desi

This is my moonshot. At time of writing Aaron Sorkin (!) has apparently not gotten word one into the screenplay, but it’s still at least conceivable this could be ready for next year’s awards season. Sorkin has pitched Lucy and Desi as looking at a week in the behind-the-scenes life of I Love Lucy (a show that I will never stop loving), Lucille Ball to be played by Cate Blanchett. Celluloid, here we come.

1) Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers Infinity War

From Iron Man to Avengers: Infinity War, ten years will have passed. The runaway success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe experiment has changed the face of the movie industry, leaving in its wake success after success, beloved character after beloved character. Infinity War is Marvel’s victory lap, the Super Bowl of superhero movies, with a bench of cast members so deep you need a lifeguard to read its IMDb page. Any movie that brings together Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff, Dave Bautista as Drax, and (probably) Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie is a shoo-in for my most anticipated movie of 2018.

My Year at the Movies – 2016

Action Scenes of the Year

9) Finale, Sausage Party

8) Atomic breath, Shin Godzilla

7) Bourne vs. the Asset in the sewer, Jason Bourne

6) Mirror Dimension chase, Doctor Strange

5) The proposal, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

4) Batman’s warehouse brawl, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

3) Darth Vader unleashed, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (a horror-action sequence!)

2) Monkey vs. Karasu – duel on the high seas, Kubo and the Two Strings

1) Leipzig airport six-on-six face-off, Captain America: Civil War (the finale is a better dramatic scene but this a superior action scene)

Team Iron Man vs Team Cap

What if action figures were actual characters?

Bait-and-Switches

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: a better Pride and Prejudice adaptation than a zombie movie

Sausage Party: a better sociopolitical satire than a comedy

Best Non-2016 Films Discovered this Year

Visit http://letterboxd.com/paulstanis/list/best-non-2016-films-discovered-in-2016/ for 19 terrific films from prior years I discovered in 2016.

By the Numbers

5 Ben Foster performances (The Finest Hours; The Program; Warcraft; Hell or High Water; Inferno)

5 Michael Shannon appearances (Midnight Special; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; Elvis & Nixon; Loving; Nocturnal Animals)

5 Hans Zimmer scores (Kung Fu Panda 3; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; The Little Prince; Inferno; Hidden Figures)

4 Chris Pine appearances (The Finest Hours; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; Star Trek Beyond; Hell or High Water)

4 Henry Jackman scores (The 5th Wave; Captain America: Civil War; Jack Reacher: Never Go Back; The Birth of a Nation)

4 Idris Elba performances (Zootopia; The Jungle Book; Finding Dory; Star Trek Beyond)

4 J.K. Simmons performances (Kung Fu Panda 3; Zootopia; The Accountant; La La Land – 5 if you count the English dub of April and the Extraordinary World)

4 Jeremy Irons performances (Race; The Man Who Knew Infinity; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; High-Rise)

4 Jesse Eisenberg performances (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; Louder than Bombs; Now You See Me 2; Café Society)

4 Michael Giacchino scores (Zootopia; Star Trek Beyond; Doctor Strange; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)

4 Michael Stuhlbarg performances (Miles Ahead; Arrival; Doctor Strange; Miss Sloane)

3 films climaxing with architectural reconstruction (X-Men: Apocalypse; Doctor Strange; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them)

3 films tackling the morality of drone warfare (London Has Fallen; Eye in the Sky; Snowden)

3 uses of “Spirit in the Sky” (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows; Suicide Squad; I am Not a Serial Killer)

2 Disney films starring intrepid seafaring women (Alice through the Looking Glass; Moana)

2 Disney-distributed films with black panthers (The Jungle Book; Captain America: Civil War)

2 films featuring Auschwitz (X-Men: Apocalypse; Denial)

2 films featuring “divine” elephants (The Jungle Book; The Legend of Tarzan)

2 films using the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as a plot point (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; X-Men: Apocalypse)

2 films with the subtitle “Resurgence” (Independence Day: Resurgence; Shin Godzilla/Godzilla: Resurgence)

2 Jane Austen adaptations (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; Love & Friendship)

2 Jazz films (Miles Ahead; La La Land)

2 Olympic films (Race; Eddie the Eagle)

2 science fiction films inspired by Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Midnight Special; Arrival)

Favorite () Yet

Captain America: Civil War, my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe film yet

Jason Bourne, my favorite Bourne movie yet

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, my favorite Star Wars prequel yet

Feelgood Movies of the Year

Hidden Figures; Eddie the Eagle; Moana; Queen of Katwe; Sing Street

Heroes or Antiheroes, Best of the Year

10) Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Hidden Figures

9) Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

8) Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Doctor Strange

7) Nadine Franklin (Hailee Steinfeld), The Edge of Seventeen

6) Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), Hunt for the Wilderpeople

5) Michéle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert), Elle

4) Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Captain America: Civil War

3) Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), Moana

2) Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

cassian-andor

Does he have the eyes of a killer, or a friend?

1) Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), Miss Sloane

miss-sloane

Heroes or Antiheroes, Worst of the Year

3) Mowgli (Neel Sethi), The Jungle Book

2) Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), London Has Fallen

1) Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

sam_r4_v11c3_151002_17mj_g_r709f.362886.tif

“…”

Ranking Disney-Distributed Movies

12) The Finest Hours

11) Alice through the Looking Glass

10) The BFG

9) Finding Dory

8) Zootopia

7) Pete’s Dragon

6) The Jungle Book

5) Doctor Strange

4) Queen of Katwe

3) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

2) Captain America: Civil War

1) Moana

moana

Sequel Improvement

Alice through the Looking Glass > Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Captain America: Civil War > Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Jason Bourne > The Bourne Legacy

Star Trek Beyond > Star Trek Into Darkness

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows > Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles\

Stray Observations

– 2016 is the only year besides 2002 in which both Star Trek and Star Wars movies were released. 14 years ago, the curtain closed on the Next Generation era of Trek films with the spectacular box office disappointment Star Trek: Nemesis, while Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones improved on The Phantom Menace while making all-new mistakes. While Nemesis has its flaws, Trek won that round. In 2016, both franchises enter the ring with excellent entries that balance nostalgia with new textures, but Star Wars ultimately carries the day over the wonderfully character-driven Star Trek Beyond with the emotional and explosive Rogue One.

– Line of the year: Anton Yelchin’s “It’s funny. You were so scary at night” in Green Room. It’s an astonishingly timely line, as the story encapsulates the threatening but ultimately pathetic nature of neo-Nazis.

– The most overrated film of the year is A Monster Calls, but I don’t begrudge anyone profoundly moved by it.

Most Underrated Films of the Year

9) Hardcore Henry

8) Swiss Army Man

7) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

6) Ben-Hur

5) Snowden

4) The Girl on the Train

3) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

2) Miss Sloane

1) Gods of Egypt (which also gets a complementary “Pardon one turkey” award)

Villains, Best of the Year

10) Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), Alice through the Looking Glass

9) Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang), Don’t Breathe

8) The Sisters (Rooney Mara), Kubo and the Two Strings

7) Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart), Green Room

6) Messala (Toby Kebbell), Ben-hur

5) Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

4) Crowley (Christopher Lloyd), I am Not a Serial Killer

3) Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl), Captain America: Civil War

2) Paula (Rachel House), Hunt for the Wilderpeople

1) Shere Khan (Idris Elba), The Jungle Book (as a bonus, the other two villains – King Louis and Kaa – are great too)

Shere Khan

Villains, Worst of the Year

4) The Douche (Nick Kroll), Sausage Party

3) Psylocke (Olivia Munn), X-Men: Apocalypse

2) Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), The Magnificent Seven

1) All DC villains (Enchantress, Incubus, Joker, Doomsday, Lex Luthor), Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

dc-villains

Marvel may have a few bland villains, but this is something else entirely!

Biggest WTF Moments of the Year

6) The Little Prince: Climax of the framing story. Is this The Little Prince or Planes: Fire and Rescue?

5) Fathers and Daughters: Constant clichés.

4) Standoff: Hilariously over-the-top insults. (Sample: “Fuck leverage! Do the math, dipshit!”)

3) Don’t Breathe: The turkey baster. You know the one.

2) Now You See Me 2: Why are there twin Woody Harrelsons???

1) The 5th Wave: 15 minutes shot in almost complete blackness…?

blackness

WTF?

(Rough) Final Ranking of All 2016 Films Viewed (Best to Worst)

Moana; Captain America: Civil War; Miss Sloane; Swiss Army Man; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Arrival; Eye in the Sky; Snowden; La La Land; Sing Street; Star Trek Beyond; Green Room; Hunt for the Wilderpeople; The Nice Guys; Ghostbusters; Kubo and the Two Strings; Everybody Wants Some!!; Captain Fantastic; Hail, Caesar!; Hell or High Water; The Edge of Seventeen; Nocturnal Animals; 10 Cloverfield Lane; Queen of Katwe; Moonlight; Doctor Strange; The Jungle Book; Hidden Figures; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; Midnight Special; Manchester by the Sea; Sausage Party; Pete’s Dragon; The Dressmaker; The Girl on the Train; Zootopia; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them; Hardcore Henry; Louder than Bombs; Elle; The Lobster; Jason Bourne; Kung Fu Panda 3; Eddie the Eagle; High-Rise; Finding Dory; The BFG; Money Monster; Denial; Lion; The Love Witch; Love & Friendship; Hacksaw Ridge; Deadpool; X-Men: Apocalypse; Fences; Ben-Hur; Gods of Egypt; Ip Man 3; The Light Between Oceans; Loving; Don’t Breathe; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny; Whiskey Tango Foxtrot; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows; Café Society; Blood Father; Shin Godzilla; Race; Miles Ahead; I am Not a Serial Killer; A Monster Calls; Tale of Tales; April and the Extraordinary World; Inferno; Sully; The Birth of a Nation; The Little Prince; Allied; The Program; The Accountant; The Trust; The Magnificent Seven; Standoff; Warcraft; Elvis & Nixon; The Man Who Knew Infinity; The Huntsman: Winter’s War; The Legend of Tarzan; Jack Reacher: Never Go Back; Independence Day: Resurgence; Jane Got a Gun; Creative Control; Triple 9; Alice through the Looking Glass; I Saw the Light; Now You See Me 2; Suicide Squad; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; The 5th Wave; Fathers and Daughters; London Has Fallen; Moonwalkers; Misconduct; The Finest Hours

My Most Anticipated Films of 2017

Whatever else 2017 will throw at us, we’ll always have movies. And whether it’s finding the greatness that comes out of a studio factory, or keeping an open mind to new independent efforts, I’ll be there. So amidst the delights and excesses of awards season, these are the 2017 films I’m most looking forward to seeing.

First, a bunch of bonus mentions. T2 Trainspotting (one of my favorite directors, Danny Boyle, returns to the film that made his name), Pitch Perfect 3 (After the sequel improved on the first, I’m ready for more a capella antics); Free Fire (a claustrophobic 70s throwback crime movie from the director of the stunning A Field in England, it could be this year’s Green Room); Annihilation (I only called Alex Garland the greatest science fiction screenwriter of all time. No big deal! Hopefully he continues to bear this out with his next writing/directing effort); Kingsman: The Golden Circle (The first Kingsman is even smarter than I initially gave it credit for, and Matthew Vaughn is a dynamite director of action); Kong: Skull Island (Apocalypse Now with Kong as Kurtz is a great pitch, and I love the 2014 Godzilla, with which this shares a cinematic universe); Death Note (an adaptation of one of my favorite comic properties looks to be a twisted psychological thriller); Logan (the rapturous response to the first 40 minutes screened to festivalgoers bodes well for this final bow of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine); Beauty and the Beast (given the state of the Disney remake, I’m very optimistic).

10) Wonder Woman

wonder-woman

It’s a travesty that the greatest female superhero has never headlined a movie (hell, no woman has headlined one at all since Elektra in 2005). So under any circumstances, this first Wonder Woman film is a full-blown event. Under any circumstances; it sure doesn’t help that the current DC universe project hasn’t produced a single decent movie out of three chances. (And I hope the way Henry Cavill’s charisma is repressed in the role of Superman doesn’t parallel any untapped range in Gal Gadot’s performance.) But the trailer is solid, promising a weighty World War I setting, stunning cinematography on Themyscira, and impactful action. The image of Wonder Woman walking out from a trench onto “no man’s land” is incredibly potent, and I predict some very creative uses for the Lasso of Truth. The film will either wreck shop, or prove as divisive as DC’s previous movies. Please be good. And please don’t lean on Chris Pine as some kind of “stealth male lead”.

9) The Fate of the Furious

the-fate-of-the-furious

In the past six years, the Fast and Furious franchise has reinvented itself as one of the silliest and most rewarding in Hollywood, and this first post-Paul Walker entry will surely continue that pulpy momentum. When I reviewed Furious 7, I hadn’t seen any other movies in the series. Now having seen them all, I anticipate #8 all the more because while the showstopping stunt setpieces are the franchise’s signature, its secret weapon is the use of past cast members to create a sort of gestalt ensemble. In that tradition, former villain Jason Statham will join the team! That sort of loopy idea of community (indeed, “family”) is what I look for in a Fast movie.

8) Blade Runner 2049

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Following up Blade Runner is almost a thankless task. But director Denis Villeneuve might be the best fit for the material anyone could hope for. After the painful intensity of Prisoners, nightmarish Enemy, the visceral Sicario, and the brooding but beautiful Arrival, Villeneuve is on an extraordinary run of atmospheric and pointed work. The teaser shows a matter-of-fact return to this very specific world, bolstered by another return to an iconic role by Harrison Ford, and a lead performance from 2016 darling Ryan Gosling.

7) The Masterpiece (née The Disaster Artist)

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Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is a legendary so-bad-it’s-good experience, endlessly quotable and inexplicable (“Did you get your promotion?” “Nah.” “You didn’t get it, did you?”). And co-star Greg Sestero’s personal account of its making, “The Disaster Artist”, is one of the funniest and most engaging books I’ve read, so the burden is on The Masterpiece to live up to the incredible subject matter.

6) The LEGO Batman Movie

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After The LEGO Movie (my favorite film of 2014, incidentally), it seems LEGO’s roast/tribute of the Dark Knight is far from over. What’s most intriguing about this spinoff is its apparent willingness to engage with the whole breadth of cinematic takes on Batman. So we’ll have riffs on Adam West alongside jokes reflecting the Christopher Nolan era. And the above picture hints that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is already going to be satirized! For that alone, I can’t wait. It’s very unusual corporate thinking to let two Batman properties coexist on the big screen at the same time, making the business side of things fascinating as well. If all goes well, The LEGO Batman Movie could end up being the second-best Batman movie. That’s realistic.

5) Baby Driver

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When wunderkind director Edgar Wright shows up, so do I. The sublime “Cornetto trilogy” of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End alone ensures Wright’s place as one of the best filmmakers working today, but Baby Driver looks like a bit of a change of pace. Frequent collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are nowhere to be found, and it looks to be a harder-boiled affair. Revolving around a getaway driver (Walter Hill’s 70s pulp classic The Driver is a clear reference point), the hook is that he suffers from tinnitus and listens to music constantly on his earphones during heists. So Wright has license to make a sort of jukebox musical crime movie. Sounds like a plan.

4) Paddington 2

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One of the biggest surprises in recent memory, Paddington is no joke one of the best family films I’ve ever seen. Charming, funny, emotional, and thematically rich, the freshman entry is a hard act to live up to, but the humility of the story will surely make for a non-bombastic follow-up. This is just the story of a (sentient) bear and the human family who loves him, and if this sequel continues in the vein of the first, that’s all we need.

3) Thor: Ragnarok

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“Think you can handle having the incredible Hulk for a dad?” That’s a line spoken by Taika Waititi’s character in a film he also directed, simply titled Boy. Boy is a charming coming-of-age slice of life set in mundane New Zealand. Its simple charms seem miles away from those of a big-budget superhero movie, but that’s what Taika Waititi has been entrusted with in Thor: Ragnarok. Also the director of heartwarming adventure Hunt for the Wilderpeople and hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, Waititi is an exciting indie filmmaker given the keys to the Marvel playground. And to bring it full circle, he’s got the Hulk.

He’s also got an unbelievable cast. Aside from returning favorites Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Mark Ruffalo, and Benedict Cumberbatch, also signed up are Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum, and Tessa Thompson! That’s nothing less than a murderer’s row. I’m actually an unabashed fan of the oft-maligned Thor movies (this is Marvel heresy, but the first two Thors blow the first two Iron Mans out of the water for me), and Ragnarok has a chance to wrap up the trilogy in an unforgettable bow. With Waititi at the helm, there’s no limit to the cosmic and comic territories the film can go to.

2) Star Wars Episode 8

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The world is still mourning the tragic death of Carrie Fisher, and even though Rogue One already functions as an odd tribute to her, she will actually have a strong presence throughout this second sequel to the original trilogy she was so beloved in. So Episode 8 will sadly function as a kind of collective wake for Carrie.

But beside all that, it will also function as a movie. In 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens brought the legendary franchise back to prominence in style. With Episode 8, Star Wars is taken over by writer-director Rian Johnson, who made the brilliant Brick and the visceral Looper. He inherits new characters audiences are already heavily invested in such as Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, and Poe Dameron, and more minor ones like General Hux and Captain Phasma (who should have, you know, something to do this time around). And of course, Leia will be a prominent player and Luke Skywalker has re-entered the story. What’s particularly exciting is that now The Force Awakens has established the foundation of the story at a breakneck pace, Episode 8 can slow down and take the storytelling in any number of risky directions. The Force Awakens’ signature scene is the terrific lightsaber duel, and if Episode 8 comes up with anything as iconic, the series will be in good shape.

1) Molly’s Game

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Aaron Sorkin’s body of work speaks for itself. Even ignoring TV, his screenplays for A Few Good Men, The Social Network, and Steve Jobs are masterful. (And to neglect non-masterpieces The American President, Charlie Wilson’s War, and Moneyball would be a mistake too.) With Molly’s Game, the doyen of dialogue will not only write but also make his directorial debut. And with my favorite actress Jessica Chastain in the lead role (as the real-life underground poker “queenpin” with a meteoric rise and fall), I’m very much in the bag for this. Last year Chastain starred in Miss Sloane, a movie I adore but which is also Sorkin-esque almost to the point of imitation. I look forward to seeing the genuine article, as it were.

Granted, Molly’s Game does not have an official release date yet. The year could go by without a release and I’d look pretty foolish for putting it in pole position, but this pick is a little more personal than the blockbusters that the eyes of the world will be watching. And in 2017, I’ll be watching quite a bit.