It’s that time of year again, when boys become men and men become wolves, to quote the great Tracy Jordan. In other words, it’s the time of year when we here at Idols and Realities attempt to vainly and vaguely round up the films of the past year in a list that approximates quality. As always, the better films will be near the top and the worser films near the bottom, but the devil is in the details. Regardless, the first film is the favorite, which means we’ll begin with:
In a year that featured good movies, but never great movies, “Blade Runner 2049” stood tall. I did not see a better looking, more thoughtful, sensitively acted film. And it managed to be a worthy successor to the original by neither abandoning it nor abusing its source material. I suppose we shouldn’t expect less from director Dennis Villeneuve at this point. Just don’t try watching it if you haven’t seen the first one.
A Ghost Story
More contemplative than scary, although the ethereal photography and moody soundtrack might fool you, “A Ghost Story” is one of those pictures. It’s a meditation on love and release, on time and timelessness, and it is really slow at the beginning, so be warned. I eat this stuff up though.
The Limehouse Golem
I know it’s sort of a 2016 film, but it wasn’t widely released to Americans until last year, so bear with me. It’s a handsome, intelligent and fun–the latter if you’re into blood-splattered Victoriana, at least. It also utilizes art in a big way, one that’s worthy of a look at some later date. And who doesn’t want to watch Olivia Cooke and Bill Nighy in period dress?
John Wick: Chapter 2
Is “John Wick” a guilty pleasure? Probably. But there’s something about its stylish, ultra-violent lack of cynicism and self concern that I find…relieving. Keanu Reeves is honestly perfect in the title role, and all the movie’s neon affectations fit its image perfectly. It’s a comic book movie, man, the best one all year.
Or maybe this is the guilty pleasure. The Netflix original skewers the brevity of modern family life with the eternity of the Apocalypse. It’s funny, well photographed and sports the always affable Adam Scott. It’s a little long, but horror fans should be kept entertained by the tons of reference points scattered throughout.
It Comes at Night
Intelligently photographed (writer-director Trey Edward Shults interned under Terrence Malick) and sensitively performed, “It Comes at Night” is a dream-like post-apocalyptic nightmare. The titular night is both literal and metaphoric. Obviously.
Beauty and the Beast
All right, all right, shut up. It was a nice movie, OK? It looked good, had great costumes, they kept all the songs, and are you seriously going to tell me you don’t like Luke Evans? Go watch him in “The Alienist” if you want something a little more bloodthirsty.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
A tightly written, well acted and nicely photographed black comedy, but why do I feel like it would have been better if the Coen brothers had come up with it? Regardless, while “Three Billboards” might be more thought provoking than truly great, I’d rather watch an interesting movie than a boring one any day.
A Christmas movie about Bigfoot featuring Michael Shannon–if you need more than that, it’s also funny, for the most part, only approaching sappy at the end. Still, it’s Christmas. I guess I can do with a little sap. If nothing else, there’s a rather interesting theory about Sasquatch offered at the campfire.
A return to form, perhaps, but also a bit of a letdown after the philosophical meanderings and sense of dread of “Prometheus,” for me at least. The screwy script and the more obvious scares are contrasted by the excellent cast and great visual design. I mean, it’s Ridley Scott doing an Alien film. It’s going to be OK.
A scattered script and a limp ending are balanced by a great premise and Anne Hathaway’s layered, complex performance. Coupled with an excellent supporting cast, this is a weird, watchable and never weighty movie.
The Shape of Water
Well, this was easily the most disappointing film of the year. When Guillermo del Toro utilizes mythic archetypes, he approaches the mystical. When he utilizes Cold War stereotypes, he approaches the mundane. While the film is shallow in its plot, it’s deep in its visuals–luckily, del Toro can’t help that.
“Logan” starts out trying to be a moody, serious superhero film, and it succeeds, right up until it doesn’t. The mid-film identity crisis might not matter so much if the movie were more interesting on its own, but regardless, anything with Hugh Jackman chopping off people’s heads can’t be all bad
Netflix’s original splatter spoof is funny, but it’s a little too hyper for it’s good. Regardless, if you’re a horror fan, you’ll at least get to play the “build a sci fi team” game at home.
Ingrid Goes West
This black comedy can’t decide if it wants to be sweet or offbeat, but it’s timely, I guess, and well acted by its leads, particularly the delightfully uncomfortable Aubrey Plaza and the clueless yet likable O’Shea Jackson Jr. Nice photography, although it is LA, so maybe I’m biased. I’m calling “stereotype” on some depictions of local characters though.
The Dark Tower
I am a Tower junkie, so I could go on about what doesn’t work here–and what does. Suffice to say that “The Dark Tower” pleases few for a variety of reasons. While it is possible to get some thrills out of watching Idris Elba shoot stuff and Matthew McConaughey snark evilly, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.
Slick and thought provoking, technological thriller “The Circle” is also incoherent, badly paced, over acted and, oddly enough, considering the money behind it, frequently poorly photographed. At least a smooth performance by Tom Hanks and an intriguing score by Danny Elfman help things along.
Intriguing, moody, atmospheric…and then the movie starts. You can’t blame them for not trying. “Rings” does attempt to build on the mythology of what has come before. It just ends up being a bit clumsy about the whole thing. Vincent D’Onofrio almost saves the day by being Vincent D’Onofrio.
This low, low budget (and Arnold Schwarzenegger produced) action mockumentary is sometimes amusing and sometimes real slow. There are fun performances from the largely comedy TV cast, but it’s never quite whacky enough for its own good, and it goes on for a bit too long.
“1922” is well shot and good at evoking its era, but Stephen King’s latest cinematic ghost story lacks the chills it deserves. Also, I love Thomas Jane, but is it just me or is overdoing the old-timey accent just a little bit?
The Space Between Us
If it didn’t have Gary Oldman, it would be unforgivable. Without Oldman, it’s just a dull cosmic fish-out-of-water movie with a lot of money and little sense. With Oldman, it’s all that..and Gary Oldman shouting about space occasionally. Have fun.
What starts as a familiar teen slasher with surprisingly good photography becomes an overly stereotypical teen slasher with a bad script. Plus werewolves. And you thought you had it rough in high school.
This is a movie that was on the background and I was in the room occasionally. That’s all I can say.