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Ruk Ranks Every Movie he Saw in 2017- Top 10 Incoming!

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...Boy, it sure has been a year, hasn't it?

 

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That's not a rhetorical question, FYI. I would like someone to confirm that it has in fact only been a year. Because God knows it feels like it's been a lot longer than that.

 

Anyway, while America and the rest of the outside world has continued merrily on its downward path into a Trump-tinged trashfire (because God knows what 2016 was missing was more Nazis), film-wise 2017 was actually fairly damn good. Sure, perhaps a decent part of that has to do with me being a bit more discerning in what I watched rather than just going for anything that took my fancy, but the difference in general quality between my 2016 list and my 2017 list is really something impressive. There were a lot of really good movies that came out this year from all sorts of unexpected places. From surprise horror hits like Get Out or It, to Marvel/Disney's continued conquest of the known world, to the DCEU actually managing to pull off a good movie for once!

 

I mean, okay sure, on the negative side, it has been kind of a shite year for one of my favourite genres, namely Animation, but honestly that only ended up driving me more into seeking more indie and foreign animations and needless to say, I found some definite gems that I might not have looked for otherwise. Hell, there are a lot of really good animated movies I found this year, if you know where to look.

 

And, of course, I decided that the best way to celebrate this glorious year of creativity and diversity in filmmaking was by putting it all on a fucking list.

 

Seriously though, if you're not familiar with how I do my end-of-year lists, basically, rather than limit myself to a Top 10/20/25/etc, I prefer to rank every single movie I saw in the year, from worst to best, and comment on them all. And this year I saw a whopping 85 movies, so yeah this is probably going to be quite a long list. And God knows there's going to be a lot of surprises because I saw a fairly wide spread of movies this year. From mainstream to indie to foreign to obscure to movies people are going to be angry I rated so low and vice versa. Heck, I even managed to follow in the traditions of my 2016 list by picking a really obscure movie for my No 1. (Although, I don't have Baumer's popularity to piggyback off this time, so who knows if anyone will even read this?) 

 

That said, be warned, some of the movies this year are going to have some really long-ass commentary on them. I am really not holding anything back on some of these, both for good and for bad. But, hey, this entire thread's existence is kinda prevaricated on the idea that people theoretically for some reason give a crap about what I have to say about movies, so I guess that won't be too much of a problem?

 

So yeah, let's get this show on the road. 

 

 

 

Edited by rukaio101
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Starting things off at the very bottom...

 

85. The Mummy

 

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Say, did you guys know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe made a lot of money? Like, a lot? Enough to make other studio turn their heads, lick their lips and start planning ridiculous ideas for their own cash dispensers Cinematic Universes? It's almost a shame then that pretty much all of said studios are absolutely terrible at it. I mean seriously, even ignoring the DCEU's general shittiness finally catching up with it this year with Justice League, we've had ideas thrown around for a Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe, a Robin Hood Cinematic Universe and, of course, Sony's belligerent attempts to somehow construct their own Cinematic Universe around Spiderman, in spite of one already failed attempt, the character already joining the MCU and, y'know, nobody fucking wanting a Spiderman Cinematic Universe! 

 

Which brings us to the most recent case in point? The Mummy. Aka that one movie that dared to ask 'Hey, what if we started off our universe with Iron Man 2, but even worse?'

 

Yeah, this was not a good movie in the slightest. In fact it’s actively quite awful. It’s a patchwork of other popular blockbuster franchises, poorly blended together and disrupted by the sort of ham-fisted universe building that makes BvS's Knightmare or Amazing Spiderman 2's Sinister Six teasing look downright subtle. As a blockbuster it’s irritating, as a horror movie it’s laughable and as the foundation for an entire cinematic universe, it’s really not something that will get you anticipating what comes next.

 

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Surprisingly enough, adding Johnny Depp doesn't seem like it'll help.

 

Quite frankly, one of my biggest issues with this movie is that it really doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It starts off as a Transformers movie, with constant explosions and noise and screaming and army stereotypes yelling at each other. Then it makes an attempt at being a horror movie (key word being ‘attempt’) which begins with lazy jump scares and eventually morphs into full-on Army of Darkness level slapstick. (Point of order, if my reaction to your scary zombie horror scene is uproarious laughter, then you may have done something badly wrong.) After that it makes a hard turn into an Avengers movie, albeit an Avengers movie if you took out any of the charm, humour, charisma or competence and replaced it all with boring shared universe exposition. By the time it gets to the unintentionally rapey conclusion (at least I hope it was unintentional), you’ve pretty much lost any ability to care about these people.

 

Hell, even Tom Cruise was unbearable in this. His character was clearly supposed to be a Han Solo-esque rougeish character, but he's so poorly written that he either comes off as unbearably bland or just the worst fucking asshole. Sofia Boutella is trying as the titular Mummy but is hampered by the fact that the film clearly doesn't really give a shit about her. Heck, they reveal almost everything about her character, including her backstory, motives and evil plot in a 5 minute prologue at the beginning. Which wasn't even the first scene. As for the direction, it was like having keys jangled in your face 24/7. Nothing but constant, exhausting noise, be it explosions, military craft or just the constant background thrum of the score. It never takes a moment to just be quiet or give you a chance to breathe or slow down, as if the movie was frightened that we’d switch off if it wasn't shrieking at us every moment of its run time.

 

And need I even talk about the cinematic universe building? It’s impossible to miss because the movie grounds to a dead halt when it turns up halfway through the movie. I’m serious, it kills the narrative momentum stone dead. The movie before that, while far from being even average, at least felt like it had some structure and story. But when Russell Crowe turns up as the head of Prodigem (aka SHIELD with the fingerprints filed off), it feels like a sharp turn into a completely different script and movie, filled with boring exposition and ham-handed ‘teases’ for a wider universe shoved straight into your face. It’s distracting, irritating and subtracts from the movie as a whole.

 

The fact is, I think studios misunderstand why audiences are interested in Cinematic Universes. It's not about seeing a bunch of characters/world sharing the same screen space, it's about seeing a bunch of characters/worlds we like sharing the same screen. We like to see Iron Man and Captain America and Thor share the screen because Marvel put effort into making certain we like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc. It's all well and good to say that you have a Cinematic Universe, but it's meaningless if there's nothing in said universe worth watching. And there's nothing in the Mummy that's worth watching or that I want to see more of. Thus it fails.

 

But hey, at least it's all uphill from here!

 

(Mostly.)

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84. Transformers: The Last (god, I hope) Knight

 

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You know, I’m probably going to surprise everyone when I say this, but I actually rather liked Age of Extinction. No seriously, I did. I mean, sure, it was about seven hours too long, Marky Mark’s daughter and her boyfriend were both terrible characters, that Romeo and Juliet underage law thing was fucked up and I ended up getting a headache by the third act, but AoE did actually feel like Michael Bay was making an effort to try and improve. I mean, for one, you could actually tell the Transformers apart! And most of them actually had some kind of personality! Hell, Optimus even had an honest-to-goodness character arc! Plus the comic relief didn’t make me want to rip off my ears, which is always a plus. But, to get back on track, while I’m not going to call AoE a great movie by any means, it was enjoyable enough to make me vaguely interested in the next movie. Not enough to see it in theatres, mind, (I do have standards) but interested nonetheless in where the franchise went from here.

 

Turned out the answer was ‘straight back into the shithole’.

 

I mean, Jesus, this movie was bad. This movie was really bad. I once described AoE as two serviceable movies jammed together into one. This movie feels like about 5 different stories ripped apart and then halfhazedly patchworked together like some sort of Frankenstein’s Monster, except the left leg is several sizes smaller than the right leg, the right arm is missing and someone accidentally put the head on backwards. Seriously, how many goddamn plot threads are there in this movie? There’s the Cybertron terraforming plot, there’s Optimus turning evil (for like one scene), there’s the little kid living in the junkyard warzone place, there’s the King Arthur stuff, there’s Transformers living throughout history, there’s the Witwicky conspiracy, there’s the fallout of the previous movie, etc etc. Each and every one of those plots would probably be enough to support an entire movie, yet this films tries to run through all of them. When I heard that Paramount were apparently putting together a Transformers Cinematic Universe Writers Room, I was unaware they’d be attempting to fit every single idea into this one film.

 

And it’s ultimately I think this flaw that kills the movie. Almost none of those plot threads gets the time or development they need and ridiculously throw off the pacing at that. Seriously, it takes about half the movie just to reach the second act. You have Merlin giving a heartfelt important speech worthwhile of a movie’s climax five minutes into the movie and without enough time to get to really know this character or give this speech any weight. You have this little girl who has a decent amount of set-up in the first act and then just… hovers around because the movie doesn’t know what to do with her. And don’t even get me started on the climax. The climax was truly dreadful. Nothing but empty sound and fury and uninteresting CGI tearing up the landscape. I couldn’t even tell you if it was good CGI because it was soooo boring. No stakes, no interest, nothing but explosions and shouting and moments that I imagine are supposed to be triumphant, but end up signifying nothing. It’s geniunely one of the worst blockbuster climaxes I’ve seen in a long time.

 

So, in conclusion, I might as well say what other people have been parroting for years. This franchise needs either fresh blood or simply to die. Because this is honestly a new low for the thing. Maybe Bumblebee will change this, but, somehow, I doubt it.

 

Also Cogman was overrated. Don't @ me.

 

 

(I am almost certain someone's going to post that gif of Cogman slapping his face in response to that. Because BOT is very predictable)

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83. Death Note

 

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Okay, fair warning here, I'm not going to be objective in the slightest when I talk about this movie. Which, I know, is kind of a stupid thing to say in the middle of a subjective list where I subjectively rank my least/most favourite movies of the year subjectively. But I really needed to emphasise that the original Death Note series, both manga and anime, was a major influence on me growing up. Not only did it kick-start my own love for anime and manga, but it also introduced me to psychological thrillers in general and really expanded my horizons on how to create tension and conflict in a story without necessarily resorting to action. To this day, I can look at large swathes of my fiction writing and think 'Yup. That was influenced by Death Note.'

 

So, needless to say, I really owe a lot to the series. And, as a result, it was kind of difficult for me to go into Netflix’s recent live-action adaptation (which I got to see in an actual cinema a day early, courtesy of London’s Frightfest) with a completely open mind. But I will say I did try to give it a chance. I was prepared for changes, I know the complexities of adapting such a work and I was perfectly willing to try and accept the movie as its own thing, regardless of the source material.

 

Unfortunately, by the end, I hated this movie. I hated it a lot. I haven’t seen an adaptation so badly miss the point of its source material since the 1999 The Haunting remake.

 

See, the thing that really made the original Death Note so entertaining was the rivalry between Light and L. The tense, psychological warfare that ensued as the two genius both attempted to out-think, out-wit and corner the other. Most of the best moments come when these two flex their mental wits against each other, to the point where they can make even a seemingly-friendly game of tennis seem like serious conflict of minds.

 

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Insert obligatory potato chip reference here

 

The Netflix movie, on the other hand, decided that nah, all that stuff didn’t really seem all that important. Obviously what people really wanted to see as the main focus of the story was a vapid teenage romance between an idiotic hormonal Light and his psycho girlfriend with power issues who you barely even need a minute to realise is going to end up eventually betraying him. Oh and lots and lots of gore and gruesome deaths. Sure, we can maybe keep L as a side focus, but let’s just toss all the stuff that made him such an awesome and interesting character and turn him into a gibbering idiot halfway through.

 

Now, I know I should probably not be comparing this film to the source material so much, but it’s so difficult because there’s so much this movie gets just plain wrong compared to said source material. I don’t mean changed, I mean wrong. Changes I could understand, because that is the nature of an adaptation, but this movie makes changes that not only don’t make sense but actively undermines the film. From minor stuff, like Light being pressured into his first kill (which severely affects the direction of his character) to wholesale scenes/moments that are clearly meant to be homages to similar scenes in the original but also clearly don’t work because they sucked out everything that made said scenes so great in the first place and thus they just come out as looking kinda dumb.

 

Honestly, that could be a good sum-up for the movie. Just kind of dumb. Almost every character or aspect in this film is fiercely stupid compared to their original counterparts. From Light, who decides to immediately to show his murderbook to a girl he barely knows in an attempt to get into her pants, to L who decides to directly confront Light at a café, not in an attempt to corner him (like in the original series) but for more or less no reason. And then breaks into Light’s house to try and browbeat him into confessing when his police chief dad is right there. And also decides to let his aide/parental figure walk around showing his real name and face while investigating the guy who only needs a name and face to kill you! And-

 

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Ahem. Well, needless to say, L got really shafted in this adaptation.

(LaKeith was cool though)

 

To be fair, there are still a couple of good points to be found in this movie. The actors do a fairly solid job with the material given, the direction is decent and Willem Dafoe just plain blows it away as Ryuk, the sinister Death God who watches over the notebook. He’s easily the MVP of the movie and honestly one of the few things that feels like an actual improvement from the source material. But that doesn’t make up for the rest of the movie feeling like a slap in the face to fans of the original.

 

The fact of the matter is, as an adaptation, Netflix’s Death Note is garbage. And as its own thing, it’s still fairly bad. The characters are idiots, the plot twists are mostly predictable and it focuses on the stupidest aspects of its own story. Perhaps if you’ve never seen or read the original series, you might enjoy it some but considering how much the original series meant to me, I found this just insulting. It's the equivalent of a MoS where, while I can't objectively say it's worse than the Mummy or Transformers 5 (or even some of the movies yet to come up), it still pisses me off much much more.

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82. Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry

 

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You know, normally I tend to refrain from including anime movies based on existing series in these lists, largely because it’s difficult to judge them on their own merits when they rely so heavily on you being aware of the ins and outs of the source material. 

 

Also, they usually suck.

 

However, I decided to make an exception for this movie because I actually got the chance to see it in cinemas as part of a special screening. And I figured, hey, there are enough direct-to-video movies on my lists, I might as well include this for funsies. 

 

That said... it still sucks.

 

For those unaware, Fairy Tail is a long-running fantasy shonen manga series (that recently ended last year) about a group of magic wizards in a magic guild, some of whom punch stuff with fire. I’d actually been following the manga for quite a long while (more out of habit than anything, to be honest), so it was something I was definitely aware of. It’s also probably the shonen equivalent of the DCEU (minus WW) in that, in spite of good visuals, it’s really terrible on almost every single storytelling level and I don’t for the life of me understand why so many people like it so much.

 

I mean, I'll give it credit that the series started off fine, but the average story arc in the manga usually consists of a handful of ‘quirky’ but ultimately really forgettable villains, the cast of side characters ramming their one-note running gags into the ground, creepy fanservice, a bunch of fake-out deaths that no-one buys for a minute, one or two genuinely cool aspects that get painfully underutilised, more creepy fanservice, deus ex machinas up the wazoo, the token 'badass' female character doing something that’s supposed to be ‘badass’ but just ends up as ridiculous, the token non-badass female getting shat on (possibly literally (see 'creepy fanservice')), creepy fetish fanservice, a bunch of spiel about the power of friendship and the importance of the guild in spite of the fact that only 7-8 characters in said 30+ member guild only even actually really do anything important and finally the main protagonist anti-climactically beating the main villain by punching him in the face with fire while ranting about friendship. And then more fanservice.

 

Like I said, Fairy Tail is really not a good series. That said, all of that is also more or less what happens in this movie, so... accurate representation, I guess? That said, this movie still sucks. The animation is decent but the story shifts from being trite and predictable to being trite and ridiculous and not really making much sense. But fuck it, I still enjoyed it more than the Netflix Death Note movie.

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81. Alien Covenant

 

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Fun fact: I actually kinda enjoyed Prometheus? Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t love it by any means and it has noticeable flaws up the wazoo, but I liked it for what it was and didn’t share the loathing hatred for it that everyone else seems to have. That said, I really don’t get what exactly made Ridley Scott look at Prometheus and the terrible reception to it and think ‘Hey, what if for the next one, I removed most of the actually interesting aspects of Prometheus and made the characters even stupider to compensate?!’ As it is, he ends up ignoring or misunderstand everything that made the original Alien so great to an almost frightening degree.

 

I mean, okay, for one, can we talk about how ferociously stupid the characters were? Like, this was something that got brought up a lot in Prometheus, but it is taken hella up to eleven here. That scene in the medical bay and everything that follows was more like a goddamn Looney Tunes cartoon than anything expected to be taken seriously in a horror movie. Or the guy who keeps wanting to land a spaceship in a storm despite almost everyone telling him that it will crash and everyone will die. I mean yeah, they're not supposed to be scientists or anything, but these guys lack even the most basic common sense. Plus most of the characters were so disposable and bland that even though one of the main selling points was the whole 'couples' thing, I genuinely could not tell you off the top of my head who was paired with who or why I should care.

 

More or less the sole redeeming feature of the movie is Michael Fassbender as David/Walter and even that's hampered by the movie first of all making it obvious that they're going to do the switcheroo with the two androids near the end and secondly deciding that David should be the one responsible for creating the Xenomorphs which, newsflash alert, nobody wanted to fucking know how the Xenomorphs were created! They were also far more satisfying and terrifying a villain when they were an unknown threat/existence. An... 'Alien' if you will.

 

So yeah, this movie was unnecessary and just kinda awful. Even the final third's poor attempts to mimic the original Alien film fell flat. There's no sense of isolation, tension, creeping terror, just a hissing monster running around the ship. Pasting Xenomorphs everywhere does not fix the issues with your franchise. And, as it is, I struggle to care about where this series goes next.

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80. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

 

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A more appropriate title would’ve been Dead Franchises Tell no Tales. Dohohohoho.

 

Seriously though, I don’t think any movie this year has felt more fatigued of its own franchise than this one. For all the many flaws of Alien Covenant, Transformers and the Mummy, they all felt like they were at least somewhat trying. Trying and faceplanting into the ground, mind, but trying nonetheless. This movie, on the other hand, just felt tired. Tired of the same old schtick, the same old characters, the same old ideas, all just tired.

 

It’s especially irritated because I actually thought this movie started off on a relatively high note. The bank vault chase was relatively fun and there was a lot of potential with the new characters and their potential arcs and storylines, be it Henry’s goal to free his father’s curse, Carina’s goal to be taken seriously as a scientist (and not hanged for witchcraft) and Salazar’s very personal hate of Jack Sparrow. And then, like an anchor around the neck of the franchise, the tired old tropes and characters came crashing down to drag the movie to the depths. Depp obviously could care less about the franchise and even Geoffrey Rush, usually able to be counted upon to deliver a fun time, feels like he’s just trying to rush through it fast enough to get that paycheck at the end. 

 

As a result, all these potentially interesting plotlines and characters get swamped and overwhelmed by the bland and tired and shitty. Henry becomes a useless joke, Carina’s character gets overtaken by daddy issues, Salazar becomes just a generic leering villain and all of the interesting plotlines get replaced by a treasure hunt for a generic McGuffin. Hell, we didn’t even get a battle between Salazar and the Flying Dutchman in the climax like I thought would happen. Why makes such an emphasis on Orlando Bloom returning if you’re not even going to bother with that?

 

So to sum up, this franchise really needs to be scuttled. Or shipwrecked. Or whatever seafaring pun takes your fancy, I don't care. Because neither do the filmmakers clearly.

Edited by rukaio101
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79. Pokemon the Movie 20: I Choose You

 

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Or, as I like to call it, how not to do a nostalgic callback movie. Seriously, I stopped watching the Pokemon anime quite a long time ago and, while I’ve dabbled in the movies here and there (favourites being 2, 3, 5 and 8), I kinda accept that most of them aren’t very good. Especially the newer ones. That said I was intrigued to hear about this project, a nostalgic retelling of the early Pokemon anime (aka when the show was actually fairly good) but with more modern polished animation and storytelling. So I decided to give it a try and check it out in theatres.

 

Turned out it was all a big lie. The movie spends maybe 15 minutes covering old material before immediately transforming into one of the shittier newer movies.

 

Seriously, what the hell movie? You spend all this time selling me on rewatching the best moments of the old anime with a new coat of paint, only to pull the rug out from under us entirely? Misty and Brock and Gary ‘Muthafucking’ Oak all get replaced with nobodies,  you barely cover a handful of the great anime moments, the main focus is almost entirely on new Pokemon and new legendaries and the story is generic as sin when it’s not being absolutely stupid and nonsensical instead. And I don’t necessarily dislike the newer generations, hell, I’ve spent the last couple of months binging Pokemon Ultra Sun, but when the main selling point of your movie is Kanto/Gen 1 nostalgia, you don’t just turn around and say ’Surprise! Marshadow is the main villain the whole time!’ 

 

That said, even taken on its own, the movie is not very good. Yeah, it’s written for kids, but it’s also mostly generic and banal and suffers from trying to cram way too much in and failing to properly set up and/or give its emotional moments time to breath. Just because it’s for kids doesn’t necessarily excuse it being crap. And it certainly doesn’t forgive it for betraying its main premise.

 

(Then again, I’m probably just mad that there was no Squirtle Squad.)

 

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(Seriously movie, shame on you.)

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78. The Book of Henry

 

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Hoo boy. This movie was certainly something.

 

Okay, unless you've been living under a rock for the past year (not that I can blame you considering mind), you've probably heard of this sweet 'heartwarming' movie from the director of Jurassic World about a genius kid who wants to assassinate his neighbour's step-dad and the almost-legendary tonal shifts that lie within. And yeah, that stuff is all ridiculous. It's the sort of story that could actually be fairly entertaining as a deliberate black comedy, but the movie tries to take itself entirely seriously and fucking faceplants right into the ground. But that wasn't even my biggest issue with the film.

 

No, my biggest issue with this movie is Henry. Who is the most punchably smug and unlikeable character in almost any movie this year.

 

Seriously fuck this kid. He's the worst kind of smug know-it-all character, one who clearly thinks he's so much better than everyone around him, in spite of the fact that he's a massive dick. He claims he sticks around in a normal high-school class to 'foster his psycho-social development with an appropriate age group' in spite of the fact that he's never shown even attempting to befriend classmates and instead belittles them at every opportunity. And while this, again, could've been great if it was a deliberate black comedy, the filmmakers are clearly on Henry's side. This is what they consider smart. A smug, condescending know-it-all brat who looks down on everyone and ticks every cliche genius box right down to informing the doctor about his own illness.

 

And don't get me wrong, there are plenty of other terrible things about the movie too, be it the muddled story-telling arcs, some downright awkward dialogue (Goddamn it, Janice!) and Christina being the most insultingly cardboard trophy 'needs to be rescued' character, etc etc. But other people have covered that better than I ever will. So I'll just say that this was awful and leave it at that. Awful in an intriguing way, perhaps, but awful nonetheless.

 

 

 

(PS. If you want to see a more comprehensive analysis of the storytelling flaws in the movie, consider checking out Folding Ideas's video essay on the topic. It's on Youtube if you want to look)

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77. Justice League Dark/Teen Titans: Judas Contract/Batman and Harley Quinn

 

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Okay, kinda cheating with this one, but I don't really care. While the live action side of DC improved by leaps and bounds this year, the same cannot exactly be said of its animation department. Much like last year, there was only one animated DC movie I saw that I actually enjoyed (and it'll come up later) and three that I decisively didn't. Honestly, I'm grouping them together because I don't care enough to write full entries on all three or separate them quality-wise, but here are a few brief thoughts on each.

 

(Also, I'm aware this technically means I saw 87 movies this year, but eh)

 

 

Justice League Dark: Boring. The idea of exploring the more twisted magical side of the DC Universe is a great one, but the reason this adaptation fails is down to the same reason that I was so excited that Guillermo Del Toro was originally working on a live-action Justice League Dark. Imagination. You could come up with some really twisted or cool visuals or concepts while working on the magic side, but instead this movie sticks to same boring laser beams and superpowers and banal stories and it's all just a slog. Doesn't help that the character animation is stiff and awkward as well. (Also seriously, why is Batman here?)

 

Teen Titans Judas Contract: This was... a thing? Probably the least bad of the three, but still kinda awkward and filled with out-of-place sexual content. Plus the climax doesn't really feel like it comes together either. And also Damian Wayne is still the fucking worst character in these movies, but he gets the shit beaten out of him here so... positive?

 

Batman and Harley Quinn: Oh, Paul Dini why. I already thought this was kind of a dumb idea to begin with and the final product wasn't any better. It's a comedy that isn't very funny, has mooooore than its far share of uncomfortable moments and really was a waste of talent for almost everyone involved. Hell, it didn't even bother to have an actual ending, so why should I give a crap?

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Okay, last one before I retire for the night. And, like all the best cliffhangers, I'm leaving this on a possibly controversial note.

 

76. A Ghost Story

 

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Note: I'm more or less just copying my thoughts from the review thread here, but my thoughts haven't really changed enough to bother writing anything different. 

 

You know, watching this movie reminded me of a few years back, when I was taking my screenwriting degree and, for one of our classes, we all got together to watch 'Salo, or 180 days of Sodom'. (For those not in the know, Salo is basically either an art movie about depravity and/or an excuse to show two hours of torturing teenagers, nudity and shit-eating.) The reception for that screening was, unsurprisingly, mixed. But after the movie, we had an interesting discussion about where exactly that line was between 'meaningful art about depravity/abuse of power' and 'torture porn/fetish film'. Some considered Salo art, others considered it torture porn, and that mindset tended to line up with how much they liked the movie itself. And I think that A Ghost Story is very much the same, in that regard. Either you understand its purpose as art and really get into its poetic atmosphere of grief and mourning... or you just think it's two hours of the filmmakers fucking with you and Casey Affleck in a bedsheet staring solemnly at stuff.

 

Unfortunately, I fell into the latter category. Because I really did not like this movie. Not in the slightest

 

Now, I'll admit I probably wasn't the best fit for it, since I tend to drift easily during long boring moments and this film feels like more-or-less 80% long boring moments. But a good director can make silences and nothings every bit as engaging as dialogue or action. That did not happen here. (Hell, I ended up turning on my ipod and listening to a podcast partway through and never felt like I missed a thing.) Don't get me wrong, I know what it was trying to do, build a drawn-out, melancholy atmosphere. And I've seen that done before and to great effect. But there were a few issues with its execution here with stopped it from working for me.

 

First of all, the movie makes a mistake by starting out with the same drawn-out, boring atmosphere instead of utilising it when appropriate. Seriously, I'd probably (maybe) be perfectly happy if it moved at a normal pace and waited until Affleck died before moving onto the slow, drawn-out crap. But no. We get shots of houses and hallways and etc that felt like they went on for like five minutes and all before Affleck bites the dust. And there's no real emotion for us to feel, so we don't and simply end up getting bored. Then, when Affleck finally does die and the drawn-out atmosphere feels more appropriate... it still doesn't work because we were already bored senseless by it and disengaged as a result.

 

Secondly, for much of the first two thirds or so, it really feels like the movie, like its titular protagonist, meanders a lot. Floating around with no purpose or drive or really anything. Just wandering around staring solemnly at stuff. Now, I'm certain people could argue that that was the point, that it reflects the protagonists own ennui and lack of purpose/drive as a ghost. And that's a perfectly understandable point. But just because something has a purpose doesn't necessarily mean it works. And, if you're not engaged with the movie, not in tune with the atmosphere it's going for, then this meandering attitude only makes it seem even worse. And this brings me onto my third and possibly most important point...

 

I don't give a crap about the characters. Seriously, not one crap is given before or after death. We get a handful of scenes with mumbly Casey Affleck and generic love interest Rooney Mara before Affleck bites it and neither of them make any kind of lasting impression. Thus the atmosphere of grief rings hollow because I don't care about either these characters. I don't feel especially sad about Affleck's accident, I just feel numb and bored. I didn't give a crap about Rooney Mara listening to dull music and it feels like the only meaningful exploration of her own grief we get is 9 minutes of her eating pie. They feel every bit as lifeless as the actual ghosts, if not less. 

 

It's annoying because there really are a lot interesting ideas and themes in A Ghost Story, especially towards the final third. But by the time the movie actually gets to them, it's already frittered away your patience with long, meaningless shots of hospital beds or Rooney Mara eating pie. And, as a result, you really can't get that invested even when seemingly interesting stuff is happening. It tries to be a poetic meditation of death and grief but, for me at least, it overestimated the audience's tolerance for its own bullshit and just ends being a bore.

 

In conclusion, my advice for seeing this movie is to wait until the pie-eating scene. If you're really feeling invested then by all means stick with it. If you're feeling bored senseless, then just walk out. It doesn't really get all that much better. Or maybe just skip to the final third where shit actually starts happening. For me thought, this was just a disappointment.

 

 

 

 

(Also seriously, no amount of reasoned arguments about deeper meaning or emotional resonance can ever convince me that the pie scene was anything other than the director fucking with the audience.)

Edited by rukaio101
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I'm back. And let's get straight back in with a forum 'favourite'!

 

75. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

 

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...At least it wasn't in the bottom 10?

 

Honestly, I do have a bit of a soft spot for these sort of pulpy adventure fantasy/sci-fi movie that everyone else shits on. Or at least I do in theory. In practise, it's more like I secretly root for them throughout their marketing campaigns, keep secretly rooting for them up to their release, then watch the movies and think 'Yeah, actually, that was kinda shite, I get why people hated it.' I felt the same way about stuff like Jupiter Ascending, Terminator Genysis and suspect the same will apply to this year's Battle Angel Alita in all its uncanny valley glory. But this year was just about Valerian and it was... not good.

 

A large part of that, unfortunately enough, was down to its two leads, who had absolutely zero chemistry whatsoever. Which would be problem enough if the movie itself didn't make such a big deal about trying to show they have chemistry. I get trying to play on the history of the original Valerian comic and making it seem like these two characters have a long history, but I've seen acting in a school play with more passion and chemistry than these two. Also Dane Dehaan was baaadly miscast. The guy can play greasy and weasely pretty damn good, but him playing a pulpy sci-fi action hero is a little bit like Miles Teller playing James Bond. Not a great fit. But at least Clive Owen was kinda hammy.

 

As for the story itself, it started off kinda fun with the inventive Big Market sequence, which was genuinely inventive buuuuut the movie also really kinda peaked with said sequence. Because every else afterwards is just kinda bland and confusing and goes on for just far too long. This movie really did not need to be 2 hours and 20 minutes long and after a while, towards the climax, I just more or less switched off. The characters weren't compelling, I didn't really give that much of a crap about the Na'vi ripoffs, the plot was muddled and confusing, there was a big unnecessary side plot involving those cannibal aliens kidnapping Laureline and even the nice visuals got a bit tiresome. It just wasn't very good.

 

I will say, I did like the opening stuff, the Big Market sequence and some of the visuals, so it's not an entire waste, but overall there's not really much worthwhile here. 

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74. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

 

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Speaking of pulpy movies that I wanted to be good, but ultimately kinda sucked...

 

You know, it’s always struck me as rather odd that, despite there being dozens of amazing stories about King Arthur and his Round Table out there, there’s never really been a truly iconic cinematic movie about the legend. Certainly, there have been plenty of movies made about King Arthur, some of which are even fairly good, like Camelot or Excalibur. But ultimately, the most well-known Arthurian movie in the public eye is the one with coconuts and a killer rabbit.

 

That said, Guy Ritchie was probably not the right sort of guy to fix that.

 

Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike Guy Ritchie's movies. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch are both two of my favourite movies and his Sherlock Holmes wasn't too bad either. Plus I haven't bothered watching any of his films people tell me are bad, so I hasn't been despoiled that way. But the thing with Ritchie is that he has a very distinct style. Which in some cases works and in other cases... Well, let's just say that in this case it's less 'Style of Substance' and more 'Style over Story Coherency'.

 

See, if you’re familiar with Ritchie’s previous works, both good and bad, his sort of style is very obvious. Lots of montages with quick cuts and Cockney stylings. Personally, for me, I’ve always loved that style, but it’s taken up to 11 in this movie and really not for the better. The movie is chock full of fast-paced moments and montages covering even the most nothing of scenes and never gives you slow moment or scene to catch your breath. As a result, rather than keep you engaged, it just makes you exhausted and it’s a struggle to stay invested to the very end.

 

It doesn’t help that the story is all over the place. I'd call Game of Thrones an apt comparison, not because this movie has deep characters and interesting political/fantasy intrigue like that show does, but because this movie feels like it tries to jam an entire TV series worth of story into its run time. We skip from episodic subplot to episodic subplot with clumsy transition and little set-up and the story never gives each subplot time to breathe or be properly explored. One character is revealed to have a major grudge against another, one that was never mentioned before, only introduced when it became relevant, never properly explained and then completely forgotten about once the scene is over.

 

This also works against a lot of the characters, because we never really get the time to properly know them. Arthur, for example, had a great montage at the beginning establishing how he grew up and what drove him and doing a lot of solid foundation work laying his character. But once the movie itself starts, he’s just thrown from crisis to crisis and we never really get to see his character shine or show why he’s so worthy to be king. Sure, he 'theoretically' has an emotional arc, but it’s incredibly muddled and nonsensical and it’s hard to tell which bits are actually important.

 

I will say, on a positive note, the acting is pretty solid all around. Charlie Hunnam may be a bit ‘generic white lead protagonist’ but he pulls his weight. Jude Law makes a decent antagonist and it’s always nice to see Djimon Houson in more roles. Aidan Gillian, is even there, playing Goosefat Bill (who is totally not Littlefinger, guys. Really, he has a different name and everything).

 

Also, on the positive, assuming you haven’t been exhausting by the constant fast-paced montages, the action is also fairly solid. There’s a neat action scene at the very beginning involving giant elephants (who totally aren’t the giant elephants from Lord of the Rings, guys) and every time Arthur gets to let loose with the full power of Excalibur, it’s always fun to watch.

 

Ultimately, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, is sadly not a very good movie. The story is muddled, the characters are flat and it’s exhausting to watch in all the wrong ways. However, if you’re a big fan of Guy Ritchie, you might well find something to enjoy. There are a few good sequences and action scenes in there (like the aforementioned ‘Arthur growing up’ montage). But it's still really not a very good movie.

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73. Atomic Blonde

 

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Okay, to get this out of the way quickly, before anyone asks, yes I do think the iconic stairway fight scene in this movie is absolutely fantastic. Genuinely brilliant stuff. It’s not especially flashy but it captures the drawn out, brutal, sluggish, blow by blow combat is fantastic tension and detail. I have nothing but praise for it. If I was judging the film on this fight scene alone, it would be right up there with all of my other favourites of the year.

 

With that said, the rest of this movie was just awful. Really really awful. I jumped from being bored to confused to bored again to even more confused to just not giving a crap. It may have some good action scenes, but John Wick 2.0 this is not.

 

Honestly, this was more or less a movie that was so in love with its own cleverness that it failed to pay attention to the basics of storytelling or even just making the story even the slightest bit comprehensible to its audience. It’s a spy thriller where I had no idea what almost any of the characters were doing, nor why they were doing it, nor even really what was going on. Half the time I had no idea whose side anyone was on and I don’t mean that in a ‘I don’t know who to trust’ sort of way, I mean that in a ‘the movie fails to set up most of these characters or their motivations or actions' sort of way.

 

As for the acting, Charlize Theron makes a cool, silent badass, but her performance is diminished by the fact that her character is (metaphorically) flat as a board, with a more developed and interesting wardrobe than actual characterisation. James McAvoy only largely avoids this same fate by hamming it up like a mofo, but the movie is so obsessed with trying to make it ambiguous as to whether he’s a good guy or bad that his character ends up suffering for it and no amount of scenery chewing can save that.

 

To put it bluntly, this movie was more interesting in shocking ‘Gotcha’ twists than actually telling a coherent story with interesting characters. And, quite frankly, all the amazing hallway fight scenes in the all the world aren’t enough to fix that.

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72. Loving Vincent

 

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Okay, to also get this out of the way quickly, before anyone asks, yes this movie has an absolutely amazing and unique art style that is genuinely deserving of praise. With each frame being hand-painted by hundreds of artists of a long period of time, the film looks incredibly and it’s entirely understandable why so many awards shows are eager to credit that hard work. 

 

That said, everything else about the movie is really kind of a slog?

 

Ostensibly, it’s a thriller about solving the mystery behind Vincent Van Gogh’s death and working out if it was in fact suicide and if not, who was really behind it. The problem is that the filmmakers were clearly not willing to go the full hog into conspiracy theory territory so all this big mystery is leading up to is an answer of ’No, it more or less happened the way everyone thought to begin with.’ And even ignoring that it’s still not a particularly good mystery or thriller. It mostly just consists of Douglas Booth walking from place to place talking to people again and again. Often the same people. And usually without that much of a reason as to why he cares so much. There’s nothing exciting to really break up the monotony, it’s just talking and walking. Even the fantastic art design starts to wear thin after a while, especially since it’s very clearly rotoscoped.

 

A small part of me can’t help but wonder whether said art design almost hindered the film in some ways. After all, if each frame is handpainted, then that likely doesn’t leave much room for reshoots or script rewrites. Thus a story that might’ve seemed fine on paper ended up being dull as sin on frame and with little room for improvements to be made. But that’s all speculation on my part. Overall though, while this movie certainly is worth a look for its art style, I wouldn't go in expecting to be amazingly entertained. Maybe just watch a few clips or something.

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71. You Were Never Really Here

 

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Okay, I'll fully admit I'm really probably not the best judge for this sort of movie, since it's very clearly an arthouse film and I am very much not an arthouse sort-of guy. All I really heard about it going in was that it got a lot of acclaim at festivals, so I really didn't know what to expect in regards to it. And perhaps more discerning folk than myself might enjoy it just fine.

 

With that said... I thought this movie was kinda crap. I found it dull, dreary and unfocused throughout, with any interesting plot elements buried under a big pile of nothing. I mean, sure, I won't deny it has its definite style to it and there are scenes and moments that I thought were pretty nice, but unless you're a big fan of Joaquin Phoenix staring solemnly at stuff, there's really not much for your average filmgoer here. I'm sure this style and movie will definitely work for some people, but it's definitely not for me.

 

That said, it was short. So that's a positive?

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70. Lego Ninjago

 

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Boy, the LEGO Universe really divebombed this year, didn’t it. I mean, I didn’t hate Lego Batman by any means, but it was kinda disposable and didn’t exactly set the box office on fire. And needless to say, it was a darn sight better than this.

 

I think the best description I can come up with of this movie is ‘If the LEGO Movie was made by less talented people’. And I don’t mean that just because both are literally LEGO movies, I mean that because LEGO Ninjago is clearly trying to be the LEGO Movie, from its irreverent ‘meme’ humour to its attempt at having an emotional throughline through which it attempts to redeem its ‘quirky’ main villain (seriously, I’m surprised they didn’t just repaint Will Ferrell’s character from the first LEGO movie). Except, y’know, Ninjago does both of those really terribly. It couldn’t even do the villain redemption thing right. The movie treats it as a bad thing when Lloyd denies his parentage, but I'm entirely with Lloyd on that one. Garmadon is a massive prick and the movie’s attempts at redeeming him are so shallow, predictable and unconvincing. 

 

And don’t get me started on the ‘humour’ in this movie. The jokes in this film feel like someone just copied and pasted a bunch of jokes off the internet that theoretically ‘should’ be funny, but removed all context, sense of comedic timing, comedic delivery, appropriateness and more or less everything that made them funny to begin with. It’s genuinely painful to watch. People (stupidly) shit on Marvel all the time for having jokes in their movies, but there is an art to comedy and Marvel actually knows how to pull its jokes off (most of the time) and how to make them rooted in character or world. As does the LEGO Movie. LEGO Ninjago does not. Thus it fails.

 

I will say, there are a few things I liked about it. The visuals are nice, a handful of jokes do land, some of the action scenes are decent, but overall this movie feels like a store-brand version of a superior project. And not a good store-brand either. Like, one of those super cheap ones that you’re not entirely certain is edible and you find a toenail clipping in. Maybe it maintains a little bit of the original flavour, but I still wouldn’t buy it.

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69. The Void

 

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Sigh. I’ll be honest, I had pretty high hopes for this. A horror movie made entirely of the sort of fucked-up practical monster effects you’d see in the likes of old John Carpenter films? Yes please. Unfortunately, while said monster effects are really cool, it doesn’t make up for the fact that the rest of the movie is kinda awful. Awful story, awful acting, awful dialogue, and not nearly enough in the way of cool creature effects to make up for it.

 

And, you know, maybe I might be more forgiving if the movie itself was aiming to be a campy fun mess, but no. It’s trying to be serious. Entirely too serious. It's trying to be dark and dramatic and scary and lovecraftian. And it sucks at it. Almost anything not creature-effect related is dull or uninteresting. Stop trying to be so serious, movie, and let us sit back and enjoy the fucked up creature effects more. Because, as mentioned, they’re really good.

 

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68. Wolf Warriors 2

 

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Overseas Box Office enthusiasts might recognise this movie as ‘That one which made like, all the money in China’.

 

Honestly though, this was actually a fairly interesting movie to watch. Not because of anything to do with the plot or direction mind, those were just generic action stuff, but because it gave an interesting view of a patriotic action movie that wasn’t made through a Western lens. Yes, Wolf Warriors 2 glorifies China and the Chinese military, but it does so very much in the same way that a lot of classic 80’s action movies did the same for the American military and it’s genuinely fascinating to watch it from the other side.

 

...Unfortunately, that was about all that was fascinating about the movie, because the rest of it wasn’t really very good. Mainly because, just like The Void, I think it took itself way too seriously. Because while the movie has a lot in common with those 80’s action movies I mentioned, there’s one major difference between them. Most 80’s action movies are cheesy, know they’re cheesy and play into said cheese perfectly. Wolf Warriors 2, on the other hand, is a cheesy movie that seems to think it’s really dramatic and emotional, tries to play a lot of scenes as dramatic and emotional and, as a result, just kinda ends up being really boring in said scenes. Especially towards the end I found myself very heavily losing interest as most of the previously passable action choreography tapered off for dull tanks and explosions and the movie even had the audacity to try and play Amazing fucking Grace of all things with a straight face.

 

Funnily enough, the only actors who genuinely seemed to understand what kind of movie were the villains, led by Frank Grillo, and it’s no surprise that they were more-or-less the best parts of the movie. Especially with their silly codenames and accents and Grillo just chomping at that scenery. If everything else about this movie played into that same attitude, this would probably be a lot higher on the list. But as it is, as interesting as the new cultural viewpoint was, it was too much of a substandard action movie to really work for me.

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