Wooderon’s Best Movies of 2017: #10 – #6

I didn’t see anywhere near as many movies in 2017 as I did the year prior.I don’t know, maybe I spent so much time in a cinema in 2016 that I burned myself out on the experience a little. I still endeavour to go back and see the things I’ve missed out on, but there is only so much time and Dunkirk is, what, like a 70 hour movie? It feels like that anyway.

Because I always seem to want to do this to myself, I end up getting my game lists polished off and posted on time and never manage to finish my movie one. So I’m going to split this one into two halves this time to get them out in a slightly more timely manner. And in case you couldn’t tell I’m especially burned out on writing intros to lists and I’m just padding this out as much as I can so there’s a decent amount of text before the line break.

Here’s numbers 10 to 6:

#10: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I adored the first Guardians movie, it might be my favourite entry in the MCU still. I couldn’t get over the feeling that the movie was lightning in a bottle though. It felt like this weird, experimental stab at something totally different that worked in every conceivable way. I couldn’t, for the life of me, believe that the followup would be able to match it at all when it eventually came out. And for the most part I don’t think it did.

On a surface level it seemed like this crazy, even more ambitious thing than the first movie. Kurt Russel as Peter Quill’s dad for one, continuing the MCU’s trend of amazing casting in their movies. Then you’ve got Stallone in it, I mean, like. What?!

Overall though, I felt like that the movie didn’t hold up to the original. I don’t want to say a lot of it felt cynically marketing focused. But Baby Groot feels like the most cynically market focused thing Marvel have put into one of these movies. Not that I didn’t enjoy Baby Groot, I just preferred Groot of the first movie. I also felt like they doubled down on the “Draxisms”. Batista turned out to be the surprise highlight of the first movie, I felt like the sequel came close to the danger of overusing him.

This is supposed to be a positive list though and there were a lot of things about this movie I loved. Early on, the movie it split into two sides. The part with Starlord interacting with his dad, which were good. But to me, the movie was stolen by Michael Rooker as Yondu. While the character seemed much more comedically focused in the first one, here he has much more heart to the movie, especially at the end when he ultimately sacrifices himself for Peter, which is a great moment. Plus, “He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn’t your daddy.” might be my favourite line from a movie all year.

It’s a great movie. I only list my little problems because I like it so much. It’s a very zany and weird movie in all the best ways and, yet again, has a very strong soundtrack to go along with it.

#9: Wonder Woman

I don’t want to be a DC movie hater. Sure I was a Marvel fan growing up, but I’ve never been one to crap on DC just because of that. Hell, I wanted the DCU or whatever it’s called to succeed. But after three trash movies back to back it felt like it was dead in the water. However, Warner seem to refuse to let anything stop from from following through with their big plans, not tragically bad press nor the fact that they’re movies simply haven’t been that good. They’re committed no matter what.

Finally, thankfully, mercifully, their forth attempt was a very good one. Wonder Woman is a origin story prequel to her, completely unnecessary,  addition to Batman vs. Superman. Set in the universe’s World War I, the movie shows how Steve Trevor crashes on Themyscira and and pulls Diana away from her home to the real world and how she learns to love humanity and become its savour. The movie has a lot of heart and I like its earnestness. Marvel has a predisposition to wear a Han Solo-esque cocky smile throughout a lot of their movies these days. I enjoyed Wonder Woman’s more basic approach to a super hero movie.

My one complaint is that at times it feels like Chris Pine’s movie rather than Gal Gadot’s. The characters do bump against one another from time to time and Diana does display her dominance each time, but by the films finale it feels like Trevor is the one getting the heroic last stand and ultimate sacrifice while she stands tearfully by the sidelines. It’s a small complaint though as overall the movie was great and the best movie DC have put out. Including Justice league. (spoiler no spoiler)

 

8. Logan

Coming into 2017, I wasn’t expecting Fox to be able to pull another gem out of their ass before ultimately getting bought out by Disney… Wait, say what happened?

Go figure. Logan was a great movie. The predisposition of the MCU is to be mostly flippant and jokey with the occasional heavy moment to keep things grounded. It’s boiled down to 50% wit, 40% action, 10% heavy shit. It seems to be going pretty well for them. What I like about Logan is it takes that dial for the heavy shit and keeps turning it until they broke it. The original comic book that this movie was inspired by; Old Man Logan, was a relentlessly bleak and depressing tale of revenge, death and Hulk insect. As acclaimed as it is, it wasn’t a fun read for me personally.

Logan takes all the edgy comic crap out of the mix and boils the story down to its base elements. It works really well. Logan has been alive for well over 100 years and his healing powers are finally slowing down, no thanks to the adamantium on his bones constantly poisoning him. Logan is happy to live on the fringe of, now mutant free, society and care for an old and unwell Charles Xavier as the few remaining mutants.

The movie is a welcome change of formula for the cinematic superhero genre. Logan has always been more of an antihero than a paragon, so he’s the perfect character for this role and Hugh Jackman plays him amazingly. Which should be expected seeing as how he’s been the character for a long time now. The movie starts to turn when a young girl with powers very similar to Logan’s shows up and he, reluctantly, goes about saving her.

It turns large portions of the plot into a dysfunctional family road trip movie which worked really well as the light moments to bring you up from the gloom that surrounds the rest of the movie. Then it ends on a bittersweet but hopeful point that might be one of my favourite singular moments in movies all year. It’s a great movie in its own right and doesn’t need to be called “just another superhero movie.”

7. Thor: Ragnarok

If I’m honest, I am starting to feel the beginnings of burnout on the superhero genre this year. I’m still watching them and enjoying them, but we’re getting, what, six or seven of them a year now. It’s why I’m probably not more jazzed about Thor: Ragnarok as I would have been a few years ago. By all accounts, this movie is a wacky, slapsticky, full-on comedy. But the critic in me can’t help but think that Marvel are just converging the tone of all their movies together. Of all Marvel character of the past movies, I felt like Thor was the least wacky of the lot. He was funny yes, but the humour came from a fish out of water situation.

Thor is a larger than life character finding himself in a more mundane world where he exclaims he wants to ride dogs and smashes glasses on the floor in joy. While it very much didn’t work in the movie’s favour when The Dark World came out, Ragnarok feels like such a tonal departure from the prior movies in the series that I just couldn’t get over that. As much as I enjoy the movie out of context.

Ignoring that though the movie is very good. Jeff Goldblum is fantastic and allowed to just do whatever it seems as he floats around in all his scenes. The locations are stunning both on Asguard and Sakarr, it’s a very pretty movie from a visual effects standpoint. Karl Urban is a real underappreciated gem, having two standout scenes in the movie, those being his first and final ones. Him firing two AK-47s names Des and Troy into an army of demons is pretty fantastic.

The fights between Hulk and Thor are great, Doctor Strange’s cameo is funny, the relationship between Loki and Thor has come to it’s final phase now and makes for some very good hi jinks and the whole neon 80s aesthetic works really well. It’s a bright and silly movie.

I had issues with the movie’s tone shift and seeming disregard for the movies that came before it. But I supposed I could see the logic behind it. Not only that, this movie is a continuous series of “WTF” moments in the best way making it consistently entertaining the entire way through. It’s a weird, crazy movie.

 

6. John Wick: Chapter 2

Wow. This movie. Wow. I mean, I liked the first John Wick quite a bit but this movie is a trip, especially considering I was never expecting it to get a sequel in the first place. While the first movie was a pretty straight revenge plot. One that almost made a joke out of the source of the revenge (not “haha, funny joke”, dead dog is no laughing matter), it spend more time focusing on the intense fight choreography. It was an action movie that reveled in how good its action was, not cutting corners with shaky cam or too close shots. It was just John Wick coldly and efficiently popping 70 to 80 dudes in the head.

The sequel picks up almost right after the first one but has a surprisingly more complex plot. At the end of the day though, it’s all about the criminal underworld screwing one another over in order to get ahead. John Wick is put up to one last job by the guy who got him out of the work, thanks to the code that is established in the first movie we know that John must take the job or risk the wrath of the entire criminal underworld, so after having his home blown up, he approaches the guy to do the job.

A fantastic action sequence ensues in a concert in Rome, followed by the dude who hired him pointlessly betraying him. Like the first movie, this is mostly a series of action set pieces with not much character development or lengthy dialogue. The thing it does instead through is flesh out this world where one in every three people is either an assassin or a mercenary, delving into this strange world of blood oaths and words of honour amongst criminals. It’s really cool.

The action continues to be top notch too. Jumping from action scene to action scene with little time to breath between. My highlights include a montage scene of people trying to kill John Wick in a subway where he kills a bunch of guys with a pencil. Another where he has an amazing confrontation with a rival assassin which includes a low key, slow walking shootout and a knife fight on a subway.

This all culminates with John breaking the biggest rule of the continental by killing inside the hotel, something we saw happen in the first movie. It’s both incredibly satisfying and shocking, as the villain is so smug at this point that we can’t stand to see him succeed, but thanks to the precedence shown in both this movie and the one that came before. Breaking the rules of the club is a fast way to die. The movie ends with Ian McShane giving John a head start and John claiming he’ll kill anyone who comes after him. And do you know what, I think he probably will.

It’s a movie of frantic action, people getting shot in the head and Keanu Reeves reloading guns in unnecessarily cool ways. The movie ended on such a good cliffhanger that the conclusion of this trilogy can’t do anything but top itself whenever it comes out.

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