Year end lists are tough. Beyond the fact that your own personal tastes are so subjective, popular opinion has become a merciless and antagonistic back and forth that can get you ruthlessly abused by your fellow anonymous users of the Internets.
But as tough as they are, who doesn’t love a good list?
[WARNING: SPOILERS, Sort of]
I wanted to give a quick shout out to Spider-Man: Homecoming, finally bringing Peter Parker (the phenomenal Tom Holland) into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (officially) and giving us a fantastic performance by Michael Keaton as The Vulture. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 was an equally pleasant viewing experience, and I’ve found myself revisiting James Gunn’s sequel a couple times since it hit Netflix last month (I’ve had a lot of time while recovering from eye surgery). But while I unabashedly love everything related to the MCU I couldn’t find a place for these films (as well as Thor: Ragnarok) in my Top 10. Something tells me Infinity War will be high on my list come 2018, but let’s not jump the gun quite yet.
#10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I want to formally state that I really loved Star Wars: The Last Jedi aka “The One Where Rian Johnson Destroys Fanboy Nostalgia Forever”. The Last Jedi is bold film-making, unafraid to take chances and obliterate the status quo that has seeped into all Star Wars media post Empire Strikes Back. Perhaps it’s because I’m not as beholden to Star Wars cannon as some. Hell my first Star Wars was an Ewok TV movie starring Wilfred Brimley. If Disney is planning on making Star Wars movies until the end of time after Episode IX then what Johnson did to the franchise was absolutely necessary. Let the past die, and allow the new generation of characters the opportunity to shine without dwelling on what Han, Leia, and Luke are doing.
I LOVE what Rian did with Rey’s parentage, and relieved she isn’t another in a long line of ‘chosen ones’. I am thrilled they eliminated Snoke, allowing Kylo Ren the chance to go beyond his Vader obsessed characterization in The Force Awakens and take center stage against Rey in Ep IX. Hell I loved everything with Rey and Ben Solo in The Last Jedi, going somewhere I never expected them to. While I wish they had kept Poe and Finn together on Finn’s quest with newcomer Rose, and hadn’t sacrificed Luke just as he’d come to terms with his place in the galaxy far, far, away I get why they did it. I wasn’t supposed to like those choices. It challenged me, and I liked to be challenged in film. I just never expected that to come from a Star War.
From my 2015 Top 15′ list;
The problems I had with The Force Awakens will likely be squashed come Episodes VIII & IX, but I have to say this. I’ll be pretty bummed if Rey is Luke Skywalker’s kid. I’ll expound upon this another time, but it makes the world feel small (and makes Luke a deadbeat Dad).
Rian Johnson nailed it.
#9. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I also wanted to express my utter love for xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, which provided me a better Fast & Furious movie than the ACTUAL Fast & Furious movie we got this year. Maybe it was the Vin Diesel/Rock beef that tainted things preventing Hobbs and Dom from appearing in a scene together, maybe it was the absence of Paul Walker, maybe it was because Tyrese wasn’t hongry enough but in the end Fate of the Furious couldn’t hold a candle to the delirious mania of Vin Diesel and his team of EXTREME spies with their own special set of skills going up against a rogue team of xXx agents.
I remember hating the first xXx with a fiery passion, and I never bothered with State of the Union which featured Ice Cube taking over for Diesel after he became too big for the role. Thankfully time heals all wounds, and Diesel’s ego came down hard somewhere between The Pacifier and The Chronicles of Riddick. He also learned a lot from turning the F&F films into superhero epics allowing xXx to become its own team up adventure and give Donnie Yen much deserved 2nd billing. Seriously, can we just get Donnie Yen into more movies? Please?
In a movie where Samuel L. Jackson recruits a soccer player as a xXx agent due to his kicking skills, my favorite character in the movie is a DJ who has the ability to distract people via his sick DJ skills. Amazing.
Like many, I gave up on M. Night Shyamalan a long time ago. My favorite M. Night joint was Unbreakable, but even that film left me cold thanks to a finale that presented title cards about what happened to David Dunn and Elijah Price instead of showing us.
For me Shyamalan never hit that high again, and each subsequent movie of his led to him indulging in his worst tendencies as a filmmaker. Signs built up great suspense, and finally decided to SHOW us the finale, only to whiff like a fart in church. The Village? Eh, at least we got a lot of close ups of Bryce Dallas Howard. And sweet lord, The Happening is one of the funniest movies ever made. Oh, it wasn’t a comedy you say? Fuck.
I ended up giving The Visit a chance a couple years back, and was pleasantly surprised how much fun it was. Normally I can’t stand found footage movies, but Shyamalan clearly had a lot of fun scaling things back and just getting weird. Even the TWIST™ didn’t bother me!
Split seemed to build off the goodwill (and success) of The Visit, presenting us a psychological thriller with fantastical elements teased throughout. Bringing James MacAvoy in was another smart move, playing the man suffering from multiple personality disorder who’s awaiting The Beast, the emerging 23rd personality of Kevin Wendell Crumb. Sure some of that horrendous M. Night dialogue seeped in, but MacAvoy’s performance was thrilling, the humor was meant to be funny, and Anna Taylor-Joy played her role perfectly. PLUS THERE REALLY WAS A BEAST! HOLY SHIT! NO TWIST!
As the epilogue rolled I immediately noticed M. Night had lifted music directly from Unbreakable as The Horde spoke to itself in the mirror. My initial thought was damn that Unbreakable score was the tits, but as it segued into a local Philadelphia diner and revealed itself to be a stealth Unbreakable sequel, I nearly shit myself. WHAT A TWIST™!
I’m now convinced M. Night’s entire career has been an M. Night Shymalan twist leading to this moment, and I patiently wait for Glass to arrive in 2019 to conclude the Unbreakable trilogy. Will it be disappointing? Most likely, but that won’t make it any less exciting in the meantime.
In comic books there is no end. Characters die, characters are resurrected, but there’s always a perpetual cycle that promises you the characters you love will someday return. Hell at the end of every MCU movie they PROMISE you the characters will return. But Hugh Jackman and James Mangold made a movie which promised one thing and one thing only, and utterly depressing end for The Wolverine. Sure Wolvie will be brought back sooner than later, most likely in an MCU blockbuster with a new star behind the claws, but Logan saw the unequivocal end of Hugh Jackman’s portrayal, as well as the end of Patrick Stewart’s version of Charles Xavier.
It’s pretty bold of Logan to murder the entire X-Men roster off screen, turn Professor X into a senile old man, and make him the man who murdered the god damn X-Men after having a brain seizure. Jesus Christ can’t the X-Men catch a break???? Logan is a western through and through (if showing Charles and Laura watching Shane wasn’t enough of a metaphorical hammer to the face), and the only happy ending that can be promised for these characters is the promise of death. X23 was pretty cool, but this wasn’t her movie in the least. It was all Logan, and he made every second of it count.
#6. Blade Runner 2049
I have a confession to make.
I never really cared for Blade Runner.
Perhaps it’s sacrilege to state such a thing, but I far prefer watching Alien than sit through the various versions of Ridley Scott’s science fiction opus. But knowing that Denis Villeneuve (you know, that guy who directed Arrival) was taking the reigns over from Scott enticed me greatly, and prompted me to take my only trip to IMAX this year to watch Blade Runner 2049. 2017 seems to be the year of rejecting chosen ones, and I couldn’t be happier to see stories veer away from this tired trope. Was 2049 too long? Yup. Did it purposely avoid answering fanboy questions despite bringing back Harrison Ford? Yup. Did it tease a war between replicants and humans but have no interest in telling that story? Yup. Blade Runner 2049 was frustrating in all the right ways.
#5. Baby Driver
La La Land was my second favorite movie of 2016, and it forced me to finally admit my love of musicals once and for all. Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver isn’t a musical per say, but the movie only works as well as it does because of the music tied to it, pushing Baby forward as he navigates the the seedy underworld he’s found himself in and attempts to find a way out.
Baby Driver is great, but the music connected to Baby Driver is even better.
PS I ♥ Jon Hamm.
#4. The Big Sick
The Big Sick is a film I desperately needed, at a time I desperately needed it, and I didn’t even realize how much I needed it until I was sitting in the theater watching it. Directed by my man Michael Showalter and based on the true life love story of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, The Big Sick was one of the sweetest and funniest movies of 2017 without ever being overly sentimental or emotional. Much like my love of Aziz Ansari with Master of None, Kumail makes his story incredibly personal and introspective. No one in this film is a caricature, and even when it feels like they could become a typical stereotype, they get humanized and made into real flesh and blood characters.
This movie makes me happy.
#3. The Disaster Artist
Are James Franco and Tommy Wiseau kindred spirits? Both men look up to James Dean in their own way, and while The Room has been rightly dubbed the best worst movie ever made, James Franco is never interested in making Wiseau the joke of The Disaster Artist. If anything Franco empathizes with and humanizes this alien of a man, making us root for the guy even when he indulges in his worst behavior.
The friendship between Tommy (James Franco) and Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is the heart of the film with the best comedians working today featured in smaller roles, only these hysterical actors are playing it straight against the larger than life character that is Tommy Wiseau. The effort to recreate The Room is maddeningly impressive, and in the end we see the American Dream realized with this bizarre and eccentric weirdo filtered through the lens of our own bizarre and eccentric weirdo, James Franco.
#2. Get Out
It’s racial as fuck, it challenges us in ways we’re afraid to discuss, and it shines a giant light on the casual racism seeping throughout America. Oh, and did I mention it’s a horror movie written and directed by comedian Jordan Peele?
I didn’t know what I was getting into when I sat down to watch Get Out, and I’m grateful I was able to remain unspoiled going in. Daniel Kaluuya is perfect at Chris, navigating a weekend away at his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents house, with the parents played by Bradley FN’ Whitford and Catherine FN’ Keener. My only gripe is I didn’t get the opportunity to see this on the big screen with an audience, just to witness the reaction for the film’s big moments.
And you best believe this movie nails the big moments. Saying anything more would spoil it for those who missed this gem, so all I’ll say is see this movie. Rent it on Amazon, watch it on HBO GO, buy it on DVD, do whatever you can to get your hands on this movie and get ready for one of the best roller coaster rides of the year.
#1. Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird is such a perfect little movie, it helped cure my existential crisis I’ve had regarding my identity all while putting a giant smile on my face. Movies like Lady Bird are my drug, and while 2017 didn’t have any all-time greats like Arrival or La La Land, it definitely was a year of movies that soothed my aching soul. It’s been a tough year for me, and getting the chance to escape into a theater for a couple hours at a time makes it just a little bit easier.
Mr. Robot continues to be my favorite television show currently on the air, rivaling Breaking Bad for its place as my #1 TV show of all-time. Whereas Breaking Bad gripped me with personal tale of Walter White, creator Sam Esmail has taken things to another level filming Mr. Robot like a feature length film, split up into individual seasons. Season 3 seems to be the best of both Season One and Season Two, providing the perfect blend of the high stakes plot of the first season and the wonderful character detours of the second.
I downloaded and suffered through the USA Network app just to watch Mr. Robot this year, and if that’s not dedication I don’t know what is. Mr. Robot is available on Amazon Prime, and if you haven’t (I know you haven’t) PLEASE do yourself a favor and catch up now.
Netflix continued to be absolutely dominant with its original series content, destroying the idea of watching TV the old way. Aziz Ansari’s Master of None was the standout for me in 2017, though I’ve got to give a shout out to Season Two of Love. Stranger Things 2 was even better than the first series, and GLOW bringing the TV show about pro wrestling ever. You can listen to my thoughts on GLOW over at Three Way Theater!
Between the superhero shows of The Arrowverse (Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, & DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) and the tremendous musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend redefining how media portrays mental illness, The CW has easily become the best network on TV. That is if I watched TV on cable anymore.
Finally, if Mr. Robot is my favorite show on television, Better Call Saul is right behind it. BCS is everything Breaking Bad is not, and while I always hoped Walt would go down for his sins (#TeamJesse), I dread Jimmy McGill’s descent into becoming Saul Goodman. Season Three of Better Call Saul brought us closer than ever to the creation of Saul, and my only hope for Jimmy is the ominous flash forwards to his days as Gene working at the Cinnabun in Omaha.
Have I mentioned how much I love Lana Del Rey?
If I haven’t, let me just say how much I love Lana Del Rey. I’m not sure if she’ll ever hit the highs of her first couple of albums, but as long as she keeps putting out songs like this I’ll be there waiting.
Despite the negative reaction her first single got, I also still adore Taylor (old or new Taylor) and really dig some of the tracks off of her latest album. Another divisive figure returned to the spotlight this year in Eminem with his latest Revival, and frankly it’s probably the most I’ve ever liked Eminem ever.
Of course I’d be remiss to not mention Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and his latest album, a great blend of his past work with some incredibly catchy tunes (I’m partial to ‘Brooklyn’ personally). After inexplicably winning a design contest for WBRU, I got the to meet Andrew while he was on tour in Boston, which was an amazing experience in every way possible.
Of course there were my own contributions to pop culture in 2017, as I continued to review various pro wrestling movies for Three Way Theater with my BFFs Mike Paiva and Lumberjake, providing something literally no one has ever asked for. It’s been a lot of fun and we’ve gotten a lot better this year, upgrading our equipment and expanding our reach. I’m really looking forward to what we put together in 2018.
I continued promoting Northeast Championship Wrestling, and 2017 was our 20th year promoting events in New England (for the most part, sssssh). While we had some great shows and helped raise some money for some important causes the 2017 Season became bittersweet for me, as I found out during the final weeks of the Season (like days before our last show) we were losing the home we had built in Norwood for the past 5 years. We’ll continue to rebuild in Dedham, MA, but losing the Norwood Elks Lodge definitely hurt.
2017 was a crappy year, but once again pop culture and entertainment has helped me along the way when I needed it most. Here’s to 2018 and what it has to offer!