It’s that time of year again when we make New Year’s resolutions and, in my case, reflect on the films made in the past year. These were my personal favorites and least favorites.
Five Favorite Films of the Year
1. Best Film of the Year: Get Out
“Get Out” was a near-perfect film; I can’t think of a single flaw. Witty, dark, hilarious and poignant, “Get Out” tells the story of a young black man who is dating a white woman, and visits her parent’s house for the weekend. Initially, her family seems well meaning, if not a little tone deaf, but soon, a more insidious plot is revealed. Jordan Peele takes his comedic genius and social commentary from Comedy Central skits (Key and Peele) to the silver screen, and ups the ante significantly. Apparently, college courses are now being taught on this film; this is a class I seriously want to take.
“Dunkirk” shares a story American audiences are probably less familiar with: the story of the miraculous evacuation of the British army from Dunkirk by a fleet of civilian boats and pleasure craft, without whom annihilation would have been inevitable. Director Christopher Nolan takes out the glitz and glam that often goes into war films, and he presents the audience with the reality of a war evacuation — lots of waiting, lots of walking, lots of ever-present dread, many people dying without ceremony or fanfare, and not much talking. This will certainly be on the Oscar list for this year.
3. War for the Planet of the Apes
This is a fitting close to an excellent trilogy, which has done justice to the original. “War for the Planet of the Apes” uses nonhuman characters to tell us a lot about humans and their tendencies. It sheds a light on our predisposition toward factionalism, the effects of internalized racism (many of the apes now work for the humans who fight other apes), our biases against the disabled and our basic, irrational desire for revenge when wrong is done to those we love, even if that revenge comes at the cost of hurting those we love most.
4. American Made
This certainly won an award for the most underrated film of the year. It came and went out of the theater cycle quickly. However, I thought this film brilliantly illuminated how the CIA intervened in South America during the Reagan years and how hollow the entire “War on Drugs” concept truly was. The title and poster, which feature Tom Cruise walking away from an airplane with a bag of money, gave the impression that the film would be a glamorous “Top Gun”-esque portrayal of American grandeur and capitalism. However, the title was clearly cynical; some American-made foreign policy creations have been less than spectacular. The story is told in a rambunctious, comedic style rather than through serious, bitter commentary. Delight your inner cynic with “American Made.”
5. Baby Driver
The last great Kevin Spacey film, “Baby Driver” takes the standard heist/crime/action flick and gives it a unique twist. Ansel Elgort shines as the eccentric lead, Baby, who is the best getaway driver in Atlanta despite his young age. However, he needs to listen to very specific music to perform well, and the integration of his tunes into the soundtrack is cleverly done. Exhilarating, fast-paced, fun, and at times adorable (it features a cute romantic storyline), “Baby Driver” was a fresh summer hit. (Also, who doesn’t love Simon and Garfunkel?)
Bottom Five Films of the Year
1. Worst Film of the Year: The Mummy
Tom Cruise plays a “young man” (he’s 55) in this horribly done reboot, which was neither scary, funny, interesting, romantic nor worth spending money on. My companion fell asleep watching this, and I confess that I too zoned out for a bit because it was that tenuous of a plot. The supposedly scary mummy was the beautiful Sofia Boutella, but she doesn’t seem sexy either, because, well, she’s a mummy and you’ve seen her as a desiccated corpse. The laugh lines are laughable, but not in the way the writers intended. Russell Crowe disgraces himself by bothering to appear in this. “The Mummy” is not even bad enough to be amusing.
2. The Emoji Movie
Some movies admit what they are - commercial cash grabs - and poke fun at themselves and their obvious intentions. “The Lego Movie” is a great example. “Inside Out” used characters representing emotions insightfully, teaching us a lesson about how sadness is necessary at times and shouldn’t be bottled up. “The Emoji Movie” doesn’t do any of these things. The references are all outdated because they were trendy when the script was written, but in the fast-paced internet age, they were antiquated by the time of release. The attempt at comedy is just painful. There is no lesson to be gleaned. Do not force this nonsense on your kids.
3. King Arthur, Legend of the Sword
Guy Ritchie has used the working class, slapstick comedy shtick to make “Sherlock Holmes” a success. The shtick did not work here. The whole movie is ridiculously stereotypical and the plot is thin, full of holes, and not remotely interesting. The film will not make fantasy lovers, fangirls, action junkies, or anyone else for that matter, satisfied. No new turns worth addressing are taken on the classic Arthur story, and I don’t even remember how it ended, because it was that forgettable. Jude Law acted seriously in a movie that was not at all serious, which produced a somewhat unintentionally comedic result. Skip.
4. The Great Wall
Matt Damon has starred in some incredible films, like “Good Will Hunting” and “The Martian.” This was not one of them. The film clearly was trying to net a Chinese audience, but it presented its multicultural message in a somewhat forced way, which did not come off as authentic. Some plot holes are acceptable, but this film was so rife with them you couldn’t help throwing your hands up at times, asking why characters remembered things only when those things were convenient to the plot. The graphics were also terrible, which is not something I tend to complain about, but it really was quite bad.
5. Justice League
We really don’t need more superhero movies. If you are going to make yet another one, please make it good. This DC response to “The Avengers” was fairly pathetic. I somewhat look forward to Avengers installments because, despite my general apathy toward superhero films, the Avengers kick butt and are genuinely fun to watch. Zack Snyder tried to make “Justice League” darker in tone, so any possibility of fun went out the window. Unfortunately, the film had nothing serious to say, so the serious tone made little sense. I would best describe this film as something my dad would watch on Netflix to help him fall asleep.